Well hello there, funny name enthusiasts. Still here? Good to see you – or talk to this unseen crowd of people that are presumably there to put it more accurately. It’s been nearly a month since I last told you about a marvelous person with an amusing name, but I have returned. I won’t elaborate on where I was, but let’s just say a top secret mission involving a trip to the moon on Richard Branson’s spaceship, magical mushrooms and a spoiled chocolate croissant at the local Starbucks were all equally not to blame for my absence.
And, ah, look at that! I have a funny named subject to talk about today. How convenient.
Following the introduction (or re-introduction to you sciency folks) of Judith Q. Longyear, we land today on the great Norbert Wiener.
Wiener, like Ms. Longyear, was a celebrated mathematician and scientist. His funny name resulted in many of his important breakthroughs and inventions having equally amusing names, like the “Wiener filter”, or my personal favorite the Wiener Sausage, which is a concept in probability that probably means something. I’m not the right person to tell you what that might be, but I’ll still gently chuckle at it. His funny name also contributed heavily to the nearly indecipherable Wikipedia article about him having golden sentences like this one :
A simple mathematical representation of Brownian motion, the Wiener equation, named after Wiener, assumes the current velocity of a fluid particle fluctuates.”
Ah, funny names, making the unreadable amusing since 1872.
Wiener was a child prodigy, obviously brilliant almost since he was born. He graduated high school at the age of 11 and received his BA in Mathematics from Tufts at the age of 14. He then headed to Harvard for further study, later earning a PhD from that institution when he was just 17. Personally I’m yet to receive my Harvard Mathematics PhD and I’m well past 17, but I’m sure it’ll get here one day. Probably in the mail as we speak.
By 1915, when he was just 21, he was teaching Philosophy at Harvard and eventually wound up as a professor at MIT, where he worked for the majority of his career. Norbert Wiener became famous as the sort of absent minded professor you hope all brilliant people really are, while making huge advances in fields you’ve never heard of that are probably really important for making your dishwasher work properly or something. He formulated theories of cybernetics, robotics, computer control, automation and more fun sounding mathematical principles like Brownian motion, harmonic analysis and Tauberian theorems. You know, the kinds of things I’ll never begin to understand that are nevertheless super brilliant, or at least confusing enough to be considered such.
Norbert Wiener, a great man with a great name.