Gary Zhexi Zhang

Program in Art, Culture and Technology

Papin Monument

When Edwin Ross Papin was born in 1933 in Seattle, Washington, his father, Roscoe, was 38 and his mother, Ida, was 25. He married Mary D. Hopkins on August 14, 1964. He had one sister.

Papin studied English, then physics, at the University of Washington, finding the physics department too limiting. In the works presented here, Papin develops his Unified Theory of Nature, a mixture of science, poetry, and biology — the influences of Einstein and Wilhelm Reich are apparent.

Throughout the years 1961-1963, Papin sought out Norbert Wiener, the renowned mathematician and founder of Cybernetics, believing him to be the only person who could understand his theories. He hoped that Wiener would acknowledge them as a branch of cybernetics and to bring him to MIT. Like Wiener, Papin had discovered a formal theory for describing all of nature’s phenomena. In a series of letters maintained in Wiener’s archive, Papin explains the increasingly dramatic developments of his theories, which claim to connect all nature through the understanding that the brain is a type of cellular computer driven by the constantly squaring velocity of the speed of light, through spasms of pleasure that Papin calls “orgasm theory.”

It is not clear if Papin ever got a reply to his letters. Wiener died the following year. Papin died in 2001, in Marysville, WA. This monument, which circulates building 41, one of MIT’s old engineering labs, marks his endeavor, and brings his presence full circle.

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