By Robert Hackett
July 26, 2017

You know Einstein, but you should know Shannon. A Mind at Play, a charming account of the life of Claude Shannon, one of the 20th century’s most distinguished scientists, makes that compelling case.

The biography is full of entertaining bits about the thinker-tinkerer who first divined the significance of the bit (aka “binary digit,” the fundamental unit of information). By age 21, Shannon, a quirky MIT student, had translated the laws of logic into the metal of machinery. A decade later, soon after the close of WWII, he devised a theory of data transmission from whence our digital age zapped into being.

Readers will enjoy this portrait of a modern-day Da Vinci from his incredible early career breakthroughs to the more flippant pursuits of his later years, like juggling through the halls of Bell Labs on a unicycle, or engineering a flame-throwing trumpet.

A version of this article appears in the Aug. 1, 2017 issue of Fortune. We’ve included affiliate links in this article. Click here to learn what those are.

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