Applied Mathematics Professor Was Computer PioneerThe desire for answers to the questions raised by his doctoral thesis in physics led Howard Aiken to the conclusion that he would have to build a calculating machine unlike anything ever seen before at Harvard -- a computer.Aiken needed numbers for his theory of space-charge conduction in vacuum tubes, but the problems were beyond the capability of desktop calculators of the day. Frustrated by his dilemma, in 1937 he wrote a proposal for a giant calculating machine, one that could represent negative and positive numbers, do standard arithmetic, and carry out more than one operation in a sequence."The desire to economize time and mental effort in arithmetical computations, and to eliminate human liability to error is probably as old as the science of arithmetic itself," he wrote, although he would later joke that the computer was " ...
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