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Siegelman, Jim 1951–

Siegelman, Jim 1951–

(James Siegelman, James Howard Siegelman)

PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1951, in Cleveland, OH. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (cum laude), 1973; graduate study at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1973–74. Hobbies and other interests: Classical and jazz musician.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Basic Books, 387 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10016.

CAREER: Writer, biographer, communication researcher, editor, illustrator, and magazine design consultant, 1969–. Member of "Cambridge Footlights" (musical comedy revue), 1973–74.

AWARDS, HONORS: Lieutenant Charles Henry Fiske III Fellowship for Trinity College, Cambridge, 1973–74; runner-up in the satire category of Annual Writers awards from Playboy magazine, 1975.

WRITINGS:

(With Jerry Ames) The Book of Tap: Recovering America,'s Long Lost Dance McKay, 1977.

(With Flo Conway) Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, Lippincott, 1978, 2nd edition, Stillpoint Press (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Flo Conway) Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1982, updated edition, Dell (New York, NY), 1984.

(With Flo Conway) Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to books, including Encyclopedia of Dance and Ballet.

Author of "The Presspasser," a column distributed by Universal Press Syndicate to twenty-six newspapers, 1972–73. Special feature writer for the Detroit News, 1974. Staff editor and writer for Playboy, 1973, and for Harper's Weekly, 1974–76. Member of Harvard Lampoon staff, 1969–73, president, 1971.

SIDELIGHTS: Jim Siegelman is a freelance writer, editor, illustrator, and consultant in magazine design. He is the author or coauthor of a number of books on a wide range of subjects, including tap dance, sudden personality change, and religious fundamentalism in America. In Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of cybernetics, written with Flo Conway, Siegelman becomes a biographer, chronicling the life of Wiener, an important but largely unknown scientist whose work helped found the field of Cybernetics. Wiener was a brilliant mathematician and technological visionary whose work, including his 1948 book Cybernetics, influenced many emerging computer scientists, engineers, and social scientists, helping to bring about the information age. A young man of prodigious intellect, Wiener had earned a Ph.D. by age eighteen, studied in England and Europe under such notables as Bertrand Russell, and secured a professorship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at age twenty-five. Wiener worked at MIT for forty-five years, developing his theories and conducting research. After studying Einstein's work and quantum physics, he developed his communications theory of cybernetics, which posited that society could only be understood by studying the messages it sends and the communications facilities used to send those message.

Though Wiener was optimistic about the application of his problem-solving techniques and the science of cybernetics, he also recognized that there would be a darker side to the widespread use and application of computers, information technology, and automation. Social, economic, and political changes would result, and he warned against them in his work. The man himself often exhibited radical social and political ideas, which led to him being investigated by U.S. and British intelligence agencies. He became a fierce critic of the U.S. military after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. He also suffered physical and psychological problems, and Siegelman and Conway show his human side with "tasteful ruminations on his manic depression, his physical limitations and his sometimes petty and competitive nature," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Socially interested and active throughout his life, Wiener died in 1964. Though Wiener's influence and legacy have been largely forgotten, Siegelman and Conway seek to restore him to his rightful place as the pivotal force behind modern communications technologies, computers, and tele-commnications. Reviewer Terence M. Ripmaster, writing in ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, commented that "with this well-written and important biography, Norbert Wiener will no longer be a forgotten hero of the information age."

Siegelman told CA: "I'm interested in ideas and information, and in making new work in the hard sciences, communication, philosophy, literature, dance, and music accessible and, wherever possible, entertaining to the general reader."

Siegelman supplied some descriptions of his books. He explained that Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change is "an investigation of the impact on human awareness, behavior, and personality of the communication techniques employed by America's religious cults and mass-marketed self-help therapies, and an exploration of how information and experience, in general, may bring about drastic alterations of the fundamental workings of the brain."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

ETC: A Review of General Semantics, January, 2006, Terence M. Ripmaster, review of Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener, the Father of Cybernetics, p. 120.

Publishers Weekly, January 3, 2005, review of Dark Hero of the Information Age, p. 48.

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