Atanasoff, John V. (John Vincent)

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Inventor of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer.

From the description of Oral history interview with John V. Atanasoff, 1985 March 19. (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis). WorldCat record id: 62685206

Inventor of the first electronic digital computer. J.V. Atanasoff was born in Hamilton, New York in 1903, and graduated from the University of Florida in 1925 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He began graduate studies in mathematics at Iowa State College in 1925. Between 1925 and 1928 he taught mathematics while continuing graduate work in mathematics and physics, receiving an M.S. in mathematics in 1926 from ISC. He became an instructor in 1928. In March 1929 he went to the University of Wisconsin to continue doctorate work in physics, receiving his Ph. D. in physics in July 1930. He returned to ISC as an assistant professor holding his appointment in both mathematics and physics within what was then known as the Division of Science. He became an associate professor in 1939 and a professor in 1942. While at Iowa State, he turned to the study of computing machines because of the work his graduate students were doing in the approximate solution of linear differential and integral equations; Atanasoff began thinking for an improvement in computing methods.

With the help of Clifford Berry, a graduate student in physics, he transformed his ideas into a model of the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) by 1939, and into a working prototype which was completed in the basement of Physics Hall in 1942. The ABC embodied four innovative concepts: serial calculation, regenerative memory, logic circuits, and the digital approach to calculating. This was the beginning of today's computers as was established in extensive litigation between Sperry Rand and Honeywell companies settled by the decision of District Judge Earl H. Larson in Minneapolis, October 1973. The court ruled that most of the ideas in ENIAC, built by Dr. John Mauchly and Dr. J. Presper Eckert between 1943 and 1945 and previously held to be the first electronic digital computer, were contained in the ABC. The ENIAC patents were declared invalid.

Dr. Atanasoff left Iowa State in 1942 to join the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Washington, D.C., but remained a professor in absentia until 1945. He left government work in 1952 to establish a consulting firm, Ordinance Engineering Corp., which he sold to Aerojet General in 1957, and became a vice president of Aerojet General. He retired in 1963 to a farm near Monrovia, Maryland.

From the description of Papers, 1930-1989. (Iowa State University). WorldCat record id: 27797949

John Vincent Atanasoff was born in 1903 in New York State. He graduated with a B.S. (1921) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Florida, an M.S. (1926) in mathematics from Iowa State College, and a Ph. D (1930) in theoretical physics from the University of Wisconsin. He was an Assistant (1930-1936) and Associate (1936-1942) Professor of Mathematics at Iowa State. While in Ames, with graduate student, Clifford Berry, Atanasoff developed the ABC Computer. The patent was never completed, and Atanasoff left Ames during World War II to work in Washington, D.C.

Atanasoff worked for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory through 1951, and then started his own company, which was later purchased by Aerojet Corporation. Although the ABC was never patented, it was part of a major court case in the 1960s and 1970s, between Honeywell, Inc. and Sperry Rand. The judge determined that the ENIAC computer was based in ideas established by Atanasoff in the ABC. Atanasoff received numerous awards including the National Medal of Technology (1990). He died in 1995.

From the description of Papers, 1925-1995. (Iowa State University). WorldCat record id: 44753158

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Pioneers of Science and Technology Video Tape Project. Oral history interviews of the Pioneers of Science and Technology Video Tape Project, 1984-1988. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Sperry Rand Corporation. Univac Division. Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand Records, 1935-1973. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf Atanasoff, John V. (John Vincent). Oral history interview with John V. Atanasoff, 1985 March 19. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand records, 1846-1973, (bulk 1925-1973) University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute. [cbi]
referencedIn Stewart, Robert M. (Robert Murray), 1924-. Papers, 1930-1988. Iowa State University, Parks Library
creatorOf Atanasoff, John V. (John Vincent). Papers, 1930-1989. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Caldwell, Wallace Caughey. Papers, 1983-2003. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Earl R. Larson papers, 1981-1985 University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute. [cbi]
referencedIn Hansen, Henry L. Papers, 1942-1989. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Larson, Earl R. Earl R. Larson papers, 1981-1985. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn National Museum of American History (U.S.). Archives Center. Computer Oral History Collection, 1969-1973, 1977. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Honeywell, inc. Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand records, 1864-1973 (1925-1973). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Auerbach, Isaac L. (Isaac Levin), 1921-1992. A survey of large scale computing machines, 1947 [Photoprints]. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Eckert, J. Presper (John Presper), 1919-1995,. Oral history interview with J. Presper Eckert, Kathleen Mauchly, James McNulty, and William Cleaver, 1980 Jan. 23. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Sperry Corporation. Univac Division. Records, 1877-1970. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Moore School of Electrical Engineering. ENIAC Patent Trial Collection, 1864-1973 (bulk 1938-1971). University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
referencedIn Iowa State University. University Relations. John Vincent Atanasoff Collection, 1941-[ongoing] Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Burks, Arthur W. (Arthur Walter), 1915-2008,. Oral history interview with Arthur W. Burks, ca. 1976. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn Hopper, Grace Murray. Oral history interview with Grace Murray Hopper, ca. 1976. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
referencedIn ENIAC Trial exhibits master collection, 1864-1973, (bulk 1938-1971) University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute. [cbi]
referencedIn Mollenhoff, Clark R. Papers, 1968-1990. Iowa State University, Parks Library
creatorOf Atanasoff, John V. (John Vincent). Papers, 1925-1995. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Yuter, Seymour C.,. Technitrol, Inc., lawsuit records, 1945-1976. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. History of physics manuscript biography collection A-C, 1901-1989, [ca. 1960]-1989 (bulk). Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Sperry Rand Corporation. Univac Division. Sperry Rand Corporation vs. Control Data Corporation records, 1947-1975. Hagley Museum & Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Auerbach, Isaac L. (Isaac Levin), 1921-1992. person
associatedWith Brainerd, John G. (John Grist), 1904-1988 person
associatedWith Burks, Arthur W. (Arthur Walter), 1915-2008, person
associatedWith Caldwell, Wallace Caughey. person
associatedWith Eckert, J. Presper (John Presper), 1919-1995, person
associatedWith Hansen, Henry L. person
associatedWith Honeywell Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Hopper, Grace Murray person
associatedWith Iowa State University. Dept. of Physics. corporateBody
associatedWith Iowa State University. University Relations. corporateBody
associatedWith Larson, Charles E., person
associatedWith Larson, Earl R. person
associatedWith Larson, Earl R., 1911- person
associatedWith Larson, Jane W., person
associatedWith Mollenhoff, Clark R. person
associatedWith Moore School of Electrical Engineering. corporateBody
associatedWith National Museum of American History (U.S.). Archives Center. corporateBody
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Pioneers of Science and Technology Video Tape Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Pioneers of Science and Technology Video Tape Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Sperry Rand Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith Sperry Rand Corporation. Univac Division. corporateBody
associatedWith Stewart, Robert M. (Robert Murray), 1924- person
associatedWith Yuter, Seymour C., person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Minnesota
Subject
Computer industry--History
Computer engineering
Electronic digital computers--History
Computer scientists--Biography
Electronic data processing--Biography
Patent suits
Computers--History
Atanasoff--Berry computer
Computer organization
Computer architecture
Electronic digital computers
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1903-10-04

Death 1995-06-15

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