The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

Claude E. Shannon: Communications as a Statistical Process, 1955

Sharing the Limelight

Shannon's humility is seen in the words of thanks he wrote to The Franklin Institute after learning of his receipt of the Ballantine Medal: "I shall be happy to accept this award, not only for myself, but also as a representative of my many fellow workers in communication theory without whose contributions the theory would not have been possible."

True to his words, Shannon built upon and related the work of many other communication theorists when crafting his "Mathematical Theory of Communication." The summary following the report compiled by The Franklin Institute Committee on Science and the Arts gives a concise explanation of this achievement:

"Dr. Shannon has recognized that complete communication processes can be studied by statistical methods, and has chosen appropriate statistical functions for the elements of the systems. In many cases there is considerable background in the literature regarding the properties of the models he has selected. He has organized this material into a comprehensive theory, with appropriate extensions, to permit the overall study of complete communication systems of great complexity. This makes it possible to indicate methods by which performance for any particular application may be optimized, and permits rapid and precise comparison of the over-all characteristics of complex systems."

You can read the full text of Shannon's thank you letter and of the CSA report by clicking on the thumbnails at right.