• unknown (b.)

Bio/Description

An American computer scientist, he was born in Los Angeles, attended graduate school at the University of Rochester, received his PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, and began his career as a post-doc student under J. Robert Oppenheimer at University of California, Berkeley in 1942. He helped develop computational techniques used in the nuclear research taking place at the time. He joined the theoretical division of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in 1943. While there, he organized teams of persons (known as "computers") using electromechanical calculators to divide the massive calculations required for the project into manageable assembly line groups. Even that proved too slow, and he turned to IBM tabulating machines to help process the numbers. This research led to his interest in the then-dawning field of digital computers. In August 1945, he and Nick Metropolis traveled to the Moore School of Engineering in Pennsylvania to learn how to program the ENIAC computer. That fall they helped design a calculation that would determine the likelihood of being able to develop a fusion weapon. Edward Teller used the ENIAC results to prepare a report in the spring of 1946 that answered this question in the affirmative. After losing his security clearance (and thus his job) during the red scare of the early 1950s, he became an independent computer consultant. He was responsible for designing the CONAC computer for the Continental Oil Company during 1954–1957 and the LGP-30 single-user desk computer in 1956, which was licensed from a computer he designed at Caltech called MINAC. The LGP-30 was moderately successful, selling over 500 units. He served as a consultant to Packard Bell Computer on the design of the PB-250. His last computing project was the SCM Marchant Cogito 240SR electronic calculator introduced in 1965. He published a number of scientific papers throughout his career. Some of them explored the use of statistical sampling techniques and machine driven solutions. In a 1947 paper in Physical Review, he and Metropolis predicted the utility of computers in replacing manual integration with iterative summation as a problem solving technique. As head of a new Caltech digital computing group he worked with PhD candidate Bernie Alder in 1949–1950 to develop what is now known as called Monte Carlo analysis. They used techniques that Enrico Fermi had pioneered in the 1930s. Due to a lack of local computing resources, He travelled to England in 1950 to run Alder's project on the Manchester Mark 1 computer. Unfortunately, Alder's thesis advisor was unimpressed, so Alder and he delayed publication of their results until 1955, in the Journal of Chemical Physics. This left the major credit for the technique to a parallel project by a team including Teller and Metropolis who published similar work in the same journal in 1953. In September, 1959, he published a paper in IRE Transactions on Electronic Computers proposing a microwave computer that used travelling-wave tubes as digital storage devices, similar to, but faster than the acoustic delay lines used in the early 1950s. He published a paper on measuring the thickness of soap films in the Journal of Applied Physics in 1966.
Still Alive: