Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician and philosopher who joined the faculty at MIT in 1919. He is renowned for his collaborative work in the 1920s on early computers, and during World War II was active in a small group of creative interdisciplinary thinkers who produced the first intelligent automated machines. This interdisciplinary view spawned several new fields of research including: communications, computation, automation, information theory, neuroscience, and most notably, cybernetics. The latter was named by Wiener in his book, Cybernetics: Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948).

Wiener recognized the value of sharing new ideas with a broad public and played the role of showman well. His “Moth” has a place in a long history of mechanical animals that were used to describe advances in technology and design. In order to build this public representation of “cybernetics,” Wiener started from the proposition that all systems—organic, mechanical, social or aesthetic—are defined by their ability to acquire, use, retain and transmit information.

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“Norbert Wiener presenting the moth in its insect form,” c. 1950, video, 0:25 min., History Channel