A Mind at Play

How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age

A Mind at Play

“A charming account of one of the twentieth century’s most distinguished scientists…a modern-day Da Vinci” (Fortune) whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded—“without Shannon, the digital revolution would have ground to a halt” (The Wall Street Journal).

Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed a fleet of customized unicycles and a flamethrowing trumpet, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called “the Magna Carta of the Information Age.” His discoveries would lead contemporaries to compare him to Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. His work anticipated by decades the world we’d be living in today—and gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass.

In this “welcome and inspiring account of a largely unsung hero” (Kirkus Reviews), Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman reveal Claude Shannon’s full story for the first time. It’s the story of a small-town Michigan boy whose career stretched from the era of room-sized computers powered by gears and string to the age of Apple. It’s the story of the origins of our digital world in the tunnels of MIT and the “idea factory” of Bell Labs, in the “scientists’ war” with Nazi Germany, and in the work of Shannon’s collaborators and rivals, thinkers like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Vannevar Bush, and Norbert Wiener. And it’s the story of Shannon’s life as an often reclusive, always playful genius. “We owe Claude Shannon a lot, and Soni and Goodman’s book takes a big first step in paying that debt” (San Francisco Review of Books).

With access to Shannon’s family and friends, A Mind at Play is “a boon for those eager to know more about his incredibly influential life—whimsical, independent and curiosity-driven...a vivid portrayal” (Nature).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476766690 | 
  • July 2018
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About the Authors

Jimmy Soni
Photograph by Damon Dahlen

Jimmy Soni

Jimmy Soni has served as an editor at The New York Observer and the Washington Examiner and as managing editor of Huffington Post. He is a former speechwriter, and his written work and commentary have appeared in Slate, The Atlantic, and CNN, among other outlets. He is a graduate of Duke University. With Rob Goodman, he is the coauthor of Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar, and A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age.

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Rob Goodman
Photography by Rashidah De Vore

Rob Goodman

Rob Goodman is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and a former congressional speechwriter. He has written for Slate, The Atlantic, Politico, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His scholarly work has appeared in History of Political Thought, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, and The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. With Jimmy Soni, he is the coauthor of Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar, and A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age.

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