A Mathematical Theory of Communication

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A Mathematical Theory of Communication is an influential[1][2] 1948 article[3] by mathematician Claude E. Shannon. It was renamed "The Mathematical Theory of Communication" in the book,[4] a small but significant title change after realizing the generality of this work.


Shannon's diagram of a general communications system, which shows the process of information that produces a message

The article was one of the founding works of the field of information theory. Shannon expanded the ideas of this article in a 1949 book with Warren Weaver titled The Mathematical Theory of Communication (ISBN 0-252-72546-8), which was published as a paperback in 1963 (ISBN 0-252-72548-4). The book explains how the symbols of communication are transmitted, how the transmitted symbols convey meaning, and the effect of the received meaning. Shannon's article laid out the basic elements of communication:

  • An information source that produces a message
  • A transmitter that operates on the message to create a signal which can be sent through a channel
  • A channel, which is the medium over which the signal, carrying the information that composes the message, is sent
  • A receiver, which transforms the signal back into the message intended for delivery
  • A destination, which can be a person or a machine, for whom or which the message is intended

It also developed the concepts of information entropy and redundancy, and introduced the term bit as a unit of information.


  1. ^ Robert B. Ash. Information Theory. New York: Interscience, 1965. ISBN 0-470-03445-9. New York: Dover 1990. ISBN 0-486-66521-6, p. v
  2. ^ Yeung, R. W. (2008). "The Science of Information". Information Theory and Network Coding. pp. 1–01. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-79234-7_1. ISBN 978-0-387-79233-0.  edit
  3. ^ * Shannon, Claude E. (July–October 1948). "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Bell System Technical Journal 27 (3): 379–423. doi:10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x. 
  4. ^ Claude E. Shannon, Warren Weaver. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Univ of Illinois Press, 1949. ISBN 0-252-72548-4

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