© 2017

Harmonies of Disorder

Norbert Wiener: A Mathematician-Philosopher of Our Time


Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. (1894–1918)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 3-22
    3. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 23-43
  3. (1919–1939)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 45-45
    2. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 47-72
    3. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 73-100
  4. (1940–1945)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 101-102
    2. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 103-109
    3. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 133-160
    4. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 161-176
  5. (1946–1964)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 177-177
    2. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 179-203
    3. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 205-229
    4. Leone Montagnini
      Pages 231-252
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 253-307

About this book


This book presents the entire body of thought of Norbert Wiener (1894–1964), knowledge of which is essential if one wishes to understand and correctly interpret the age in which we live. The focus is in particular on the philosophical and sociological aspects of Wiener’s thought, but these aspects are carefully framed within the context of his scientific journey. Important biographical events, including some that were previously unknown, are also highlighted, but while the book has a biographical structure, it is not only a biography. The book is divided into four chronological sections, the first two of which explore Wiener’s development as a philosopher and logician and his brilliant interwar career as a mathematician, supported by his philosophical background. The third section considers his research during World War II, which drew upon his previous scientific work and reflections and led to the birth of cybernetics. Finally, the radical post-war shift in Wiener’s intellectual path is considered, examining how he came to abandon computer science projects and commenced ceaseless public reflections on the new sciences and technologies of information, their social effects, and the need for responsibility in science. 


Norbert Wiener biography Norbert Wiener information philosopher Originator of cybernetics sociological aspects of Wiener’s thought Philosophy and sociology of science Wiener modern information theory Norbert Wiener and the second world war Norbert Wiener and cybernetics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Ufficio BiblioscienzeBiblioteche di RomaRomeItaly

About the authors

Leone Montagnini has worked on the history and philosophy of science and technology for more than 20 years, during which time he has devoted much attention to cybernetics and the thought and work of Norbert Wiener. He holds a PhD in Computational and Computer Sciences, an MA in Philosophy, an MA in Sociology, and a degree in Nuclear Engineering. Dr. Montagnini has lectured across the world, including at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Universities of Vienna, Budapest, and Helsinki, and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. He has published many journal articles and book chapters on his chosen topics.

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“This masterful scholarly work connects Wiener to the important thinkers who influenced him, and illuminates the many contributions Wiener made to the fields of mathematics, engineering, computer science, and philosophy. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.” (R. L. Pour, Choice, Vol. 55 (9), May, 2018)

“Norbert Wiener was one of the great geniuses of the 20th century. Harmonies of disorder is a brilliant biography that carefully details every aspect of Wiener’s background and contributions without using any equations, making it accessible to general readers with an interest in science and its history … . The reader is privileged to see the thinking of a great genius and how significant developments of the 20th century came about. Every comprehensive library should have this book.” (Computing Reviews, January, 2018)

“The whole book is very readable and gives important insights into the intellectual development of an outstanding thinker. Many links are discussed with respect to philosophy, social sciences, and physics and many well-known characters of the computer age like von Neumann and Wiener’s contacts with them are discussed. The book comprises an important step in understanding Wiener’s thinking.” (Thomas Sonar, zbMATH 1377.01002, 2018)

“This is a thoughtful portrait of Norbert Wiener and well worth reading. The author provides a complete bibliography of Wiener’s published work as well as a large bibliography of related material.” (William J. Satzer, MAA Reviews, October, 2017)