Claude Shannon, in full Claude Elwood Shannon, (born April 30, 1916, Petoskey, Michigan, U.S.—died February 24, 2001, Medford, Massachusetts), American mathematician and electrical engineer who laid the theoretical foundations for digital circuits and information theory, a mathematical communication model.
Shannon’s master’s thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits (1940), used Boolean algebra to establish the theoretical underpinnings of digital circuits. Because digital circuits are fundamental to the operation of modern computers and telecommunications equipment, this dissertation was called one of the most significant master’s theses of the 20th century. In contrast, his doctoral thesis, An Algebra for Theoretical Genetics (1940), was not as influential.
He had a long career as a research mathematician at Bell Laboratories (1941–72) and as a professor at MIT (1957–78). On the basis of his 1948 paper “The Mathematical Theory of Communication” he is considered the founder of communication theory. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1966 and the Kyoto Prize in 1985.