U-M Shannon Centennial Symposium Celebrates the father of information theory

Researchers from around the nation gathered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to celebrate the 100th birthday of alumnus Claude E. Shannon (BSE EE/Eng Math ’36, ScD hon. ’61) at the Shannon Centennial Symposium.

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Top: Co-organizers and invited lecturers in the lobby of the Symposium venue, the Rackham building at the University of Michigan. From left to right: Sandeep Pradhan, Alfred Hero, Michelle Effros, Abbas El Gamal, Hye Won Chung, Emmanuel Candes, David Neuhoff, Robert Calderbank. Left: Attendees enjoying a sunny coffee break on the balcony of the Rackham building. Right: A poster presentation at the Symposium poster session.

Researchers from around the nation gathered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to celebrate the 100th birthday of alumnus Claude E. Shannon (BSE EE/Eng Math ’36, ScD hon. ’61) at the Shannon Centennial Symposium on September 16, 2016. The event was co-organized by Al Hero (the John H. Holland Distinguished University Professor and R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering), Dr. Hye Won Chung, Dave Neuhoff (the Joseph E. and Anne P. Rowe Professor of Electrical Engineering) and Prof. Sandeep Pradhan. The celebration will continue throughout the rest of the year with the Shannon Centennial Seminar Series, a special series of Communications and Signal Processing lectures welcoming experts from around the nation to talk about Shannon and current work building on his principles.

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The symposium welcomed more than 300 registered participants from around the nation, and included a poster session and four plenary lectures by Abbas El Gamal (Stanford University), Emmanuel Candes (Stanford University), Michelle Effros (CalTech), and Robert Calderbank (Duke University). The lectures, included below, were inspired by Shannon’s foundational work in computing, communication and information theory. Click here to see the list of speakers, and recordings of the lectures (posted as they take place).

On display was an exhibit showing Shannon’s Michigan connections that included his hand-written college application from 1932, his application for a diploma, and the page from his 1936 Commencement program where his name appeared under both Mathematics and Electrical Engineering.

Attendees could also view the video tribute to Claude Shannon prepared by the IEEE Information Theory Society, as well as ten posters showing the impact of Shannon’s work, prepared by individual members of the Information Theory Society. These posters are available for download.

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Claude Shannon at his home in Gaylord, MI. Shannon attached this image to his application to the University of Michigan. Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
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University of Michigan enrollment photo of Claude Shannon. Photo courtesy of Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
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Display of Shannon's record at Michigan, including the video tribute prepared by the Information Theory Society
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Ten large posters showing the impact and relevance of Shannon's Mathematical Theory of Communication were on display in a separate room.

Shannon’s landmark 1948 paper, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” earned him the title, Father of Information Theory. Shannon also theorized the binary code of zeros and ones that makes all computing possible. His work was world changing, impacting the future of communications, data compression, statistics, natural language processing, cryptography, neurobiology, quantum computing, linguistics, and more.

Shannon’s centennial is being celebrated around the world, with many institutions holding major symposia and other commemorative events throughout 2016. The Republic of Macedonia issued a stamp in his honor. The IEEE Information Theory Society awards an annual Claude E. Shannon award to honor consistent and profound contributions to the field of information theory.

The University of Michigan Shannon Centennial Symposium was sponsored by the IEEE Information Theory Society, Michigan Institute for Data Science, Michigan Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. The celebration will continue at Michigan throughout the year with the biweekly Shannon Centennial Lecture Series.

View Slides/Videos of the Symposium Introduction and Plenary Talks

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Alfred Hero, John H. Holland Distinguished University Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and R. Jamison and Betty Williams Professor of Engineering, gave the opening introduction. Included here are his slides which give an overview of the program as well as of Claude Shannon’s life and key accomplishments. The slides includes many rare images from Otsego County Historical Society and the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
View Slides from Prof. Hero’s presentation, including rare images from Shannon’s early life.

"Information Theoretic Limits for Randomness Generation" by Abbas El Gamal
"Around the Reproducibility of Scientific Research in the Big Data Era: What Statistics Can Offer?" by Emmanuel Candes
"On Shannon’s Channel and Capacity: A Mystery in Three Acts" by Michelle Effros
"Remembering Shannon" by Robert Calderbank

View and download photos from the event here.

Additional Information

Claude Shannon centennial celebrants recall U-M grad’s advances, societal impact (3/8/16)