Mary Elizabeth Moore Shannon, 95

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The IEEE Information Theory is sad to report the passing of Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Moore Shannon.
Mary Elizabeth Moore Shannon, 95

Betty Moore Shannon

The following obituary appeared in Boston Globe and is reproduced here with permission.

Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Moore Shannon, 95, formerly of Winchester, Massachusetts, died May 1, 2017 at her home at Brookhaven in Lexington, Massachusetts.  She was born in New York City to Vilma Ujlaky Moore and James E. Moore.  

Betty excelled academically in high school, winning a full scholarship to New Jersey College for Women (now Rutgers’ Douglass College) where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in mathematics.  Upon graduation, she began working the next day at Bell Laboratories in Manhattan as a “computer,” one of a group of women whose job was to do the mathematical calculations required by the engineers.  She likened it to a secretarial pool for math majors.  She was promoted to Technical Assistant at Bell, and worked with John Pierce, inventor of the communications satellite, collaborating on several projects including a Bell Labs Technical Memorandum entitled “Composing Music by a Stochastic Process.”

At Bell Labs, Betty met Dr. Claude Shannon, the creator of Information Theory.  They married in 1949 and were devoted to each other until Claude’s death in 2001.  She and Claude shared a playful sense of humor, and Betty assisted Claude in building some of his most famous inventions.  She did much of the wiring of Theseus, the Maze-Solving Mouse, a pioneering experiment in artificial intelligence, and during a memorable trip to Las Vegas, helped test a device designed to beat the house at roulette, considered by many to be the first wearable computer.

Betty left Bell in 1951 to raise a family.  She became an avid weaver, an interest she pursued for 40 years.  She joined the Boston Weaver’s Guild, served as Dean of the Guild from 1976-1978, and received the Guild’s Distinguished Achievement Award.  She worked closely with the Handweavers Guild of America for many years and received an honorary Life Membership in 1996.  She was a member of the Cross Country Weavers and the Wednesday Weavers.  In the ‘70s, Betty was one of the first explorers of computerized hand weaving, though she found, in the end, that she preferred the less technological approach. 

In her later years she developed an interest in genealogy and never lost her love for all things mathematical.

Betty is survived by her son Andrew, her daughter Peggy, Peggy’s partner Nina, and their daughters Nadja and Eva.  Services will be private.  Donations in her memory can be made to Associate Alumnae of Douglass College.

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