Her name was Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Moore, and Shannon first met her in 1948 at Bell Labs. Betty worked as one of the Labs’ “computers”—the women who did the mathematical calculations needed by the engineers. Betty had come to the Labs after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the New Jersey College for Women (now part of Rutgers University), which she attended on full scholarship. A gifted mathematical mind, she started work in Bell Labs’ mathematics department, focusing on microwave research, and then moved to the fast-growing radar group. In addition to her day-to-day work, she also published research, including a Bell Labs Technical Memorandum on “Composing Music by a Stochastic Process.”
Shy though he was, Shannon summoned the courage to ask her out to dinner. That dinner led to a second, the second to a third, until they were dining together every night. Shannon was smitten. As their dates grew longer and more frequent, they split time between his West Village apartment and hers on East Eighteenth Street. There, the two shared their mutual love of mathematics and music. “I played piano and he played clarinet,” Betty recalled, “and we’d come home from work, and we found some books of music that had two parts, and we’d enjoy playing together.”
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