McCulloch, Pitts and the Evolution of Wiener’s Neurophysiological Ideas

  • P. R. Masani
Part of the Vita Mathematica book series (VM, volume 5)


Wiener first met Dr. Warren McCulloch at the neurophysiological meeting in New York in 1942 at which Dr. Rosenblueth presented their joint work with Bigelow on teleology [43b]. McCulloch was then Professor of Psychiatry in the Medical School of the University of Illinois. In 1917 he had entered Haverford College to honor in mathematics, but in the spring went on active duty with the Naval Reserve for a year, teaching celestial navigation to cadets and learning about submarines. He studied philosophy at Yale and psychology (experimental aesthetics) at Columbia before he entered the Columbia Medical School. He became a serious student of mathematical logic, and investigated the mathematico-logical aspects of schizophrenia and psychopathia while serving at the Rockland Hospital for the Insane. His life’s mission is disclosed by his amusing exchange with the Quaker philosopher Rufus Jones at Haverford College in 1917:

“Warren”, he said, “what is thee going to be?” And I said, “I don’t know.” “And what is thee going to do?” And again I said “I have no idea; but there is one question I would like to answer: What is a number, that a man may know it, and a man, that he may know a number?” He smiled and said, “Friend, thee will be busy as long as thee lives.” I have been… {M13, p. 2}.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. R. Masani
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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