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
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
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
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
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.,