Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? Freethought of the Day is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 2 entries for this date: Cloris Leachman and Claude Shannon
Cloris Leachman

Cloris Leachman

On this date in 1926, actress Cloris Leachman was born in Des Moines, Iowa. After being crowned Miss Chicago in the the 1946 Miss America competition, she won a scholarship to study acting at the Actor's Studio in New York. Some of her earliest films include "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "The Last Picture Show" (1971), for which she won an Academy Award. She played memorable roles on television, such as the mother on "Lassie" from 1957-58, and Phyllis Lindstrom on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970-77) and in her own series, "Phyllis" (1975-77). She made frequent appearances on "The Facts of Life," among other shows. More recently, she played a main character in the comedy "Raising Hope," which began airing in 2010.

In over 60 years of television, film and stage work, in roles ranging from comedic to dramatic, Leachman has won eight Emmys, appeared in over 100 TV shows and, in the fall of 2008, participated as the oldest contestant yet (age 82) on "Dancing With the Stars." In an interview with Grandparents magazine, when asked if faith plays a big role in her life, Leachman said, "Not in a God, no. I am an atheist. I'm not even atheist. I don't think any of us has the answer. I'm an agnostic." ("Cloris Leachman Drives Fast, Dances Well, Adores Her Grandkids," March 26, 2009.)

“I've been so relieved and so grateful to not have a god to believe in.”

—Cloris Leachman, interview, Esquire magazine (January 2009)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch; Photo by Tinseltown,

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon

On this date in 1916, Claude Elwood Shannon was born in Petoskey, Mich. He grew up in Gaylord, where he attended public schools and showed a talent for both mathematics and engineering. He received a B.S. in mathematics and electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1936, then went on to MIT for graduate studies. While working with a mechanical computer called the Differential Analyzer, Shannon came up with the idea for a computer in which numbers would be represented by states of electrical circuits rather than ratios of gears. He published this work in a master's thesis which outlined the use of Boolean logic and binary numbers in a digital computer. He then earned his Ph.D. in mathematics, graduating in 1940.

In 1948, he published a paper, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” which is regarded as the foundation of information theory, in which he defined the bit and discussed the mathematics of communication problems. At that time, Shannon was attached to Bell Labs, which had just developed the transistor, a technology that greatly improved the viability of the electronic computer. Starting in the 1950s, technological advances which depended on Shannon's work were changing the world on a regular basis. Shannon's later interests included artificial intelligence, card-counting, finance, and juggling (the subject of his last published paper). In the 1950s, he also devised a program for a chess-playing computer. Although Shannon survived into the digital age, he was unaware of most of the developments in information theory which took place in the 1990s. He suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years and lived in a nursing home the last eight years of his life. D. 2001.

Photo by Konrad Jacobs under CC 2.0

“Shannon described himself as an atheist and was outwardly apolitical.”

—William Poundstone, "Fortune's Formula" (2005)

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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