University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Twentieth Century Think Tank > 'The Grammar of the Semi-Exact Sciences': Norbert Wiener in India, 1955–1956

'The Grammar of the Semi-Exact Sciences': Norbert Wiener in India, 1955–1956

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From September 1955 until April 1956, the MIT mathematician and father of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener spent 7 months as a visiting professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. According to his biographers Conway and Siegelman, his experiences in India had a profound influence on Wiener’s later professional years. Yet little is known about this time period, which followed shortly on the success and acclaim of cybernetics, as a midcentury vision of techno-futurism. Between classroom lectures, Wiener spent much of his time working on a book manuscript, titled ‘The Grammar of the Semi-Exact Sciences’, on problems of nonlinear prediction. He promised his publisher that the book would serve as a splashy follow-up to his 1948 publication, Cybernetics. Though he never completed or published the book, the manuscript offers an important glimpse of Wiener’s work on predictive analysis, especially when set in the context of India’s rapid and uncertain postcolonial economic development.

This talk is part of the Twentieth Century Think Tank series.

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