"ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT MASTER'S THESES OF THE 20TH CENTURY" (BRITANNICA): FIRST EDITION OF CLAUDE SHANNON'S GROUNDBREAKING 1938 MASTER'S THESIS, UNDERPINNING THE DEVELOPMENT OF MODERN COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
SHANNON, Claude. "A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits." IN: Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Volume 57, pp. 713-23. New York: American Institute of Electrical Engineers, 1938. Folio (9 by 11-1/2 inches), modern blue and black cloth. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $16,000.
First edition of Shannon's master's thesis demonstrating how Boolean algebra could simplify the arrangement of relays underlying automatic telephone exchanges—and suggesting, for the first time, the concept of using 0 and 1 as true/false values to allow arithmetic by relay circuits—a crucial work with applications for all digital circuits including those in computer technology, and winner of the Alfred Noble American Institute of American Engineers Award.
Psychologist Howard Gardner described Shannon's thesis as "possibly the most important, and also the most famous, master's thesis of the century." This was because Shannon's paper, written while he was working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York, dealt with digital circuits, a crucial component in both telecommunications devices and computer technology. "'A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits' makes for a compelling read—especially given what's happened in the 60-plus years since it was written. As an aside toward the end, for example, Shannon pointed out that the logical values true and false could equally well be denoted by the numerical digits 1 and 0. This realization meant that the relays could perform the then arcane operations of binary arithmetic. Thus, Shannon wrote, 'it is possible to perform complex mathematical operations by means of relay circuits.'… Shannon realized that such a circuit could also make comparisons. He saw the possibility of a device that could take alternative courses of action according to circumstances—as in, 'if the number X equals the number Y, then do operation A.'… In the years to come, the prospect of decision-making machines would inspire the whole field of artificial intelligence, the attempt to model human thought via computer… All of which is why 'A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits,' published in 1938, has been called the most important master's thesis of the 20th century. In his early 20s, Claude Shannon had had the insight crucial for organizing the internal operations of a modern computer—almost a decade before such computers even existed. In the intervening years, switching technology has progressed from electromechanical relays to microscopic transistors etched on silicon. But to this day, microchip designers still talk and think in terms of their chips' internal 'logic'—a concept borne largely of Shannon's work" (MIT Technology Review). Thus, Shannon's thesis offered a firm theoretical basis for some of the largest fields of research and development of the modern era.
Title page with tiny hole and corner reattached with paper tape on verso, cloth quite nice. A very nearly fine copy.