- Hardcover: 248 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 28, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691151008
- ISBN-13: 978-0691151007
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Logician and the Engineer: How George Boole and Claude Shannon Created the Information Age
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"Meshing logic problems with the stories of two extraordinary men . . . Paul Nahin fashions a tale of innovation and discovery. Alongside a gripping account of how Shannon built on Boole's work, Nahin explores others key to the technological revolution, from Georg Cantor to Alan Turing."--Nature
"Engaging. . . . Nahin assumes some rudimentary knowledge but expertly explains concepts such as relay circuits, Turing machines, and quantum computing. Reasoning through the problems and diagrams will give persistent readers genuine aha moments and an understanding of the two revolutionaries who helped to lay the foundation of our digital world."--Scientific American
"Part biography, part history, and part a review of basic information theory, this book does an excellent job of fitting these interlocking elements together."--Library Journal
"The reader is taken on a journey from the development of some abstract mathematical ideas through a nearly ubiquitous application of those ideas within the modern world with so many embedded digital computers. . . . I enjoyed the discussion of Claude Shannon. In the history of the computer and development of the internet and World Wide Web, his ideas and contributions are too often overlooked. He is one of my heroes and I believe that everyone that reads this book will come to the same conclusion."--Charles Ashbacher, MAA Reviews
"Paul J. Nahin really knows how to tell a good story. . . . The Logician and the Engineer is truly a gem."--New York Journal of Books
"A short but fairly detailed exploration of the genesis of Boolean logic and Shannon's information theory. . . . [G]ood background reading for anyone studying electronics or computer science."--Christine Evans-Pughe, Engineering & Technology
"Although the book is technical, it is always easily understandable for anyone (for those who need it, some basic rules for electrical circuits are collected in a short appendix). It is not only understandable but also pleasantly bantering and at occasions even facetious."--A. Bultheel, European Mathematical Society
"Most valuable to this reviewer, and likely to many potential readers, is the closing chapter, aptly titled Beyond Boole and Shannon. Here is provided an introduction to quantum computing and its logic, possibly portending the future of computers, yet unmistakably bearing the footprints of the two early pioneers. It is an unexpected yet fitting conclusion to this thoroughly enjoyable read."--Ronald E. Prather, Mathematical Reviews Clippings
"Nahin has had the very good idea of connecting the very different worlds and times of Boole, Shannon, and others to demonstrate that a little Victorian algebra can turn out to be very useful."--SIAM Review
"The exposition is clear and does not assume any prior knowledge except elementary mathematics and a few basic facts from physics. I recommend this well-written book to all readers interested in the history of computer science, as well as those who are curious about the fundamental principles of digital computing."--Antonín Slavík, Zentralblatt MATH
"[T]his is a useful and often interesting introduction to the life and work of two intellectual giants who are largely unknown to the general public."--Gareth and Mary Jones, London Mathematical Society Newsletter
"The problems are varied and indeed intriguing, and the solutions are delightful."--Mathematics Magazine
"This book is not light reading. It would be excellent for advanced high school juniors or seniors with a strong interest in computer science as well as mathematics."--Tom Ottinger, Mathematics Teacher
"Nahin leavens the math and engineering with humor and an infectious intellectual curiosity, and the parallels between Boole and Shannon are convincingly drawn. . . . [The Logician and the Engineer] will give your brain a workout, but an enjoyable one."--San Francisco Book Review
From the Back Cover
"In this book, Nahin brings to life the immense practical outcomes of deep theoretical ideas. Too often, technological advances are seen as isolated inventions and the underlying mathematical and scientific infrastructure goes unappreciated. By following the story of George Boole and Claude Shannon with a lively historical style, and a futuristic extension to quantum computing, Nahin makes the connection of theory and practice into something vivid and compelling."--Andrew Hodges, author of Alan Turing: The Enigma
"From electromechanical relays to quantum computing, Nahin takes us on a delightful exploration of Boolean logic and the careers of George Boole and Claude Shannon. This is a superb book for anyone who wants to understand how that gigahertz chip in their favorite electronic doohickey really works."--Lawrence Weinstein, author of Guesstimation 2.0: Solving Today's Problems on the Back of a Napkin
"Written with the skill and ability that we have come to expect from Paul Nahin, The Logician and the Engineer is an interesting and informative account of the history of formal logic, the lives of its two great investigators, and the applications of Boolean algebra in electronic computation."--Chuck Adler, St. Mary's College
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Top customer reviews
I actually started the book being frustrated as the author poses to the reader an example of an electrical circuit to the reader and claims one should at least understand that before continuing. After having read that the book requires only high school math and then being shown a problem which is poorly worded and hard to understand I was immediately annoyed with the author (for whom I own other books from). Nonetheless I moved on from that and the book went into the history of both Boole and Shannon. These sections are short but informative, there are some aspects of the writing which don't add to the content but I guess it is the author's style which unfortunately aren't the most coherent, for example discussing how a comment from Shannon's first wife was evidence she knew he might have mental problems 40 yrs later. The author then moves on to more math and engineering. The author provides the reader with the ideas of Boolean Algebra and how to use Karnaugh maps. This is clear and well written. The author then moves on to circuits and how they can be used to represent logical statements if constructed properly. The author goes in to some basic probability theory and sets up the reader in the next chapter for some ideas in information theory which was one of Shannon's main research focus. The author discusses flip flops next and sequential state digital circuits. The material here is not nearly as clear as can be found elsewhere. The author switches gears towards the end and introduces the ideas of universal computation and Turing machines. The examples used are interesting but the author goes in to some tangent about an eager beaver program and how it takes exponential time to halt which doesn't add to understanding Turing machines and is just a random diversion that happens to interest the author. The author then moves in to some more complex ideas and how heat generated by computers can be considered a result of thermodynamics and information theory. He also discusses quantum computation briefly.
This book will give the patient reader a sense of what goes in to circuit design and how computation can be done via using electricity to represent Boolean logic. Without assuming knowledge from the reader, the author is able to communicate some basic ideas fairly clearly. I think the author can be arrogant and testing with the reader (in a bad way). There are times when he brings up some nostalgic story about his early days in graduate school designing a circuit and the nuances in connecting wires but given his target audience including this is both likely to be uninteresting and a distraction. The book has many parts in which the author tries to show how clever he is which is totally unnecessary as he is supposedly writing for a layperson audience. Given some chapters are excellent introductions to the subject but the general writing is really bad I gave 4 stars but would lean lower to be honest. I am glad I read it though, but would skip much of the material on a second read.
Also, would it have killed Nahin to have just simply come out and said that diodes serve as one-way valves for current flow? How hard is it, really, to dispense with all the technical fetishism for a sentence or two, and just spill the beans that diodes are used to force a one-way flow of current? Not at all, but clearly Nahin would rather alienate "unworthy" readers with the deliberate withholding of easily-expressed down to earth language here and there.