Herman Heine Goldstine

September 13, 1913 June 16, 2004


Posted on Tue, Jun. 22, 2004

H. Goldstine, computer pioneer

Inquirer Staff Writer

Herman Heine Goldstine, 90, the scientist who persuaded the U.S. military to back the development of the first computer, ENIAC, died Wednesday of Parkinson's disease at home in Bryn Mawr.

Dr. Goldstine's part in ENIAC began in 1942, when he enlisted in the Army. The Army sent the accomplished mathematician to the Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, where he worked on ordnance projects.

In 1943, he came across a memo from University of Pennsylvania scientists J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly proposing that a calculating machine could be used to determine "firing tables" used to aim artillery. Those tables - the settings used for directing artillery under varied conditions and taking into account such variables as rounds, weather and atmospheric conditions, and distance to target - took hours to calculate. Mr. Goldstine persuaded the Army brass to fund the two young scientists' project, and the computer age was launched.

Dr. Goldstine understood the sophisticated ideas and principles that Mauchly and Eckert employed in developing digital computers that operated with numerical values expressed as digits as opposed to analogs. Intrigued by their proposal, Dr. Goldstine lobbied the brass at Aberdeen Proving Ground in April 1943, requesting $500,000 to pay for the research. He believed the Army, which was already shipping guns overseas without firing tables, was in a big enough jam to put money on a long shot.

Dr. Goldstine made his case to a committee headed by the mathematician Oswald Veblen. Veblen brought his chair forward with a crash, got up, and said to Col. Leslie E. Simon, director of the Army's Ballistics Laboratory: "Simon, give Goldstine the money."

Dr. Goldstine ran the show for the Army, and a team of scientists and engineers was assembled at Penn's Moore School to build the computer, with Mauchly and Eckert supervising. The project was kept secret as a matter of national security.

ENIAC, an electronic computer that could compute a trajectory in one second, was born in 1945. It was enormous. It was 80 feet long and had an 8-foot-high collection of circuits and 18,000 vacuum tubes. ENIAC operated at 100,000 pulses per second.

It took so long to build that the war ended before it could be used for its original purpose - churning out firing tables used to aim artillery.

ENIAC was publicly announced in 1946 on the first floor of the Moore School. In 1947, most of ENIAC was moved to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where it continued to operate until 1955.

Some original parts remain at Penn, in the basement where it was built.

Dr. Goldstine left the military in 1946, and a year later he was appointed associate director for the electronic computer project at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where he collaborated with John von Neumann in designing the second generation of computers, EDVAC (Electronic Differential Variable Computer). This computer and its successors were put to scientific and industrial uses.

IBM, realizing the computer's potential, hired Dr. Goldstine away from Princeton in 1958. Within two years, the company dominated the computer business. Dr. Goldstine stayed with IBM for 26 years, serving as director of mathematical sciences in research, director of scientific development for data processing, and director of research. He retired in 1984.

IBM established a Herman Goldstine Fellowship in mathematical sciences. In 1985, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his work in the invention of the computer.

The author of five books, Dr. Goldstine wrote the widely read The Computer from Pascal to Von Neumann.

In retirement, Dr. Goldstine became executive officer of the American Philosophical Society. During his tenure, he oversaw the construction of Benjamin Franklin Hall on South Fifth Street.

Arlin M. Adams, a retired judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a longtime friend of Dr. Goldstine's, said: "Although Herman was known as a mathematician, he was very active in attracting foreign visitors to Philadelphia and the Philosophical Society."

Dr. Goldstine was born in Chicago and earned a bachelor's degree in 1933, a master's degree in 1934 and a doctorate in 1936, all in mathematics, from the University of Chicago. He taught at his alma mater and at the University of Michigan before enlisting in the Army. Always a thin man, he stuffed himself with bananas and milk shakes so he could pass the military medical entrance exam for World War II.

Mr. Goldstine is survived by his wife of 38 years, Ellen Watson; a son, Jonathan; a daughter, Madlen Goldstine Simon; and four grandchildren. His first wife, Adele Katz, a mathematician who wrote a manual explaining how to program ENIAC, died in 1964 after 23 years of marriage.

A ceremony celebrating Dr. Goldstine's life will be held at the American Philosophical Society in the fall.

Memorial donations may be made to the Herman H. Goldstine Memorial Fund, American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St., Philadelphia 19106.

Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.

2004 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Princeton Packet Obituary, June 22, 2004

Herman H. Goldstine
Computer pioneer

    BRYN MAWR, Pa. Herman Heine Goldstine, a mathematician and pioneer in the development of the computer, died Wednesday at home of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 90.
   He was born in Chicago and received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in mathematics from the University of Chicago.
   He began to teach at the University of Chicago in 1936, moving three years later to the University of Michigan.
   In 1942, he entered the U.S. Army and became a lieutenant colonel and led the government's development of Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, and the Electronic Differential Variable Computer, or EDVAC the world's first electronic computers.
   At the end of his active military service in 1946, Dr. Goldstine was appointed associate project director for the Electronic Computer Project at the Institute for Advanced Study. At the institute, he collaborated with John von Neumann in designing the computer in its modern, electronic form and showed how to program it and to apply it to an enormous range of scientific and industrial problems.
   In 1958, Dr. Goldstine joined IBM Corp. and remained with IBM for 25 years, serving as the company's first director of mathematical sciences in research, director of scientific development for the data processing division and as a consultant to the director of research.
   There is now the IBM Herman Goldstine Fellowship in Mathematical Sciences.
   He returned to the Institute for Advanced Study in 1972 when he was an IBM Fellow to research and write several of his books. He is the author of five books, the first of which is "The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann." His other books are on mathematics.
   In 1984, Dr. Goldstine became the executive officer of the nation's oldest learned society, the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
   He is the winner of the National Medal of Science, the University of Chicago's Alumni Achievement Award and the U.S. Army's Distinguished Service Medal.
   Predeceased by his first wife, Adele Katz, he is survived by his second wife, Ellen Watson; two children from his first marriage, Jonathan Goldstine and Madlen Goldstine Simon; and four grandchildren.
   A ceremony celebrating his life will be held this fall at the Philosophical Society.
   Donations in his memory may be made to the Herman H. Goldstine Memorial Fund, The American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St., Philadelphia PA 19106.

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