Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Biography of Adele Goldstine

Adele Goldstine wrote the complete technical description for the first electronic digital computer, ENIAC; also known as the “Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer” which was the first general-purpose electronic computer in the 1940’s.
The 1940's was dominated by World War II. European artists and intellectuals fled to the United States from Hitler and the Holocaust, bringing new ideas created in disillusionment. War production pulled us out of the Great Depression. Women were needed to replace men who had gone off to war, and so the first great exodus of women from the home to the workplace began. Rationing affected the food we ate, the clothes we wore, the toys with which children played. But Adele had bigger plans for herself, and saw a vision for woman no one else saw.
She attended the University of Chicago and was married to Herman Goldstine, a military liaison and administrator for the construction of the ENIAC. She began her career as a mathematics teacher for the woman computers at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. She also trained 6 of her students who were original programmers of ENIAC to perform hand calculations of the firing table trajectory.
Some of her very respected writings were the “Operators Manuel for the ENIAC “ with the help of her six students: Kay McNulty, Betty Jean Jennings (Jean Bartik), Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman, who trained themselves to program the ENIAC using its logical and electrical block diagram. During this time, programming the machine meant moving dials and cables manually.
In 1946 Goldstine sat in on programming sessions with Bartik and Dick Clippinger to implement Clippinger's stored program modification to the ENIAC. John von Neumann was a consultant on the selection of the instruction set implemented. This solved the problem of the programmers having to unplug and replug patch cables for every program the machine was to run; instead the program was entered on the three function tables, which had previously been used only for storage of a trajectory's drag function.
ENIAC programmer Jean Bartik called Goldstine one of her three perfect partners in designing programs or logical design. They worked together to program the Taub program for the ENIAC.
Goldstine died of cancer at the age of 43, leaving behind her husband and their two children.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing that during an error were women were not really suppose to be anything but fillers during a time of war, how one women could take that opportunity and carry it so far. It is fascinating to learn about her education and her teaching career I was unaware of women like her during the 1940's. Did you happen to find out anything about the 6 students she trained and their future impacts on the field?