• 1924 December 05
    (b.) - ?


Born in Chicago, IL, he joined IBM in 1949 and spent his entire professional career there; first at the Endicott Laboratory and then later he joined the IBM Research Division. After attending Purdue University for a year and serving in the United States Army during World War II, he attended Northwestern University. He received the B.S.E.E. degree in 1945, and was awarded a Fortesque Fellowship. He attended the California Institute of Technology, receiving his M.S.E.E. degree in 1946. He received his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1949, at Northwestern University, the subject for his thesis being Hollow Tube Dielectric Waveguides. After participating in the design of the IBM 701, he managed system planning and part of the development work for the SAGE (Semiautomatic Ground Environment) air-defense computer, the AN/FSQ-7. When deployed in 1958 this was the first large-scale, real-time digital computer supporting a major military mission. Some components from SAGE are mounted in two display cases at SEL. The display case to the right contains a magnetic core memory -- each tiny magnetic doughnut in this hand-woven frame is a single bit, so the entire memory board contains only 64,000 bits! In this case are a vacuum-tube logic circuit, and a light gun which allowed the operator to select a particular track on the cathode-ray-tube display. The AN/FSQ-7 system weighed 250 tons and had a 3,000 kilowatt power supply. He later joined the IBM Research Division where he was a pioneer in the development of relational database systems, participating in the development of System-R, the first project on the practical feasibility of the relational model. In the relational model, data is stored in two-dimensional tables allowing flexible storage and retrieval. The relational model has become the dominant approach to large database management, and the work on System-R led to Structured Query Language (SQL) -- a high-level language used for communicating with relational databases -- and many later developments. He was a Fellow of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and received the AFIPS (American Federation of Information Processing Societies) Distinguished Service Award in 1975. In 1980 he was named a recipient of the Northwestern University Alumni Merit Award. The Astrahan Electronic Information Center was established at the Seeley G. Mudd Library in 1992 with the help of his wife, Mrs. Joann Astrahan and Mr. Morton. The Astrahan Center, equipped with networked computer workstations, laser printers, laptop connection, and wireless network access, provides access to online information from electronic resources that are locally mounted or available on the Internet. Workstations in the Astrahan Center are available for NUcat (library online catalog), databases, and Internet access. He was a member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, and Eta Kappa Nu.
  • Date of Birth:

    1924 December 05
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  • Noted For:

    Developer of the channel interrupt and served on the team for the SQL and manager of the system planning and part of the development work for the SAGE air-defense computer, the AN/FSQ-7, the first large-scale, real-time digital computer supporting a major military mission
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