Berkeley, Edmund Callis.

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Edmund Callis Berkeley received a BA in mathematics and logic from Harvard University in 1930 after which he worked for Mutual Life Insurance of New York as an actuarial clerk. In 1934 he took a position with Prudential Insurance of America where he eventually became chief research consultant. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1942 and worked at Dahlgren Laboratory as a mathematician. There, he was assigned to Howard Aiken's Harvard Laboratory to work on the sequential calculator project (Mark II).

After leaving the Navy in 1946 he returned to Prudential. In 1947 he helped found the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery, renamed the Association for Computing Machinery in 1948, and served as its first secretary. At Prudential Insurance, Berkeley worked on a hazards project to identify the greatest modern hazards, and the research convinced Berkeley that nuclear war was the greatest hazard facing mankind. Prudential decided to abandon the project, and forbade Berkeley from working on it even on his own time for fear that it would reflect poorly on the company.

Berkeley felt it was his duty to work against nuclear war and quit Prudential to set up his own business, Berkeley Associates, in 1948. Shortly after the establishment of his company, Berkeley wrote one of the first books on electronic computers for a general audience, Giant Brains, Or Machines That Think (1949), and began research on robotics. He published a quarterly, the Roster of Organizations in the Field of Automatic Computing Machinery, which was soon renamed the Computing Machinery Field, and eventually retitled Computers and Automation. This publication developed into a monthly journal (1951). Berkeley expanded the journal, developed Simon, one of his first robots, and became involved in public education in Newton, Massachusetts. He also set up correspondence courses in general knowledge, mathematics, computers, and logic systems. In 1954, Berkeley Associates incorporated as Berkeley Enterprises, Inc. Most of Berkeley's efforts in publishing, teaching machines, and even his interest in fluoridation was based on the premise that helping the common man to think logically would lead to the end of the nuclear threat.

Berkeley Enterprises employed the talents of a number of individuals, some of whom later gained importance in the computer and other fields. The most notable of these was Patrick J. McGovern, Berkeley's office manager, who eventually founded International Data Corporation (IDC). Researchers should note that not all of the names associated with Berkeley Enterprises were real individuals. Berkeley wrote and published under several pseudonyms, such as Neil D. MacDonald.

Berkeley explored different avenues to supplement his finances. He wrote articles and gave talks, did actuarial consulting, worked part time as consultant for Information International, Inc., particularly for the Navy's HUMRRO project on computer-assisted explanation and LISP. In addition, he reviewed books for the Library of Science series, marketed his books, robots (Brainiacs, Tyniacs and Geniacs), and teaching machines. He continued to write books on computers, logic, and learning.

Berkeley was active in the peace movement and in 1958 became involved with the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) led by Norman Cousins. The 1960 controversy over possible communists in the organization is well reflected in correspondence between Berkeley, Norman Cousins, and Linus Pauling. Berkeley published the Greater Boston Area SANE Newsletter, and later the Newsletter for The Boston Committee for Disarmament and Peace. He wrote numerous articles, letters to the editor, and letters to members of government. He was also active in speaking on disarmament and publicizing events of the peace movement.

From the guide to the Edmund C. Berkeley papers, 1923-1988, (University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute. [cbi])

Biography / Administrative History

Edmund Callis Berkeley was an American computer scientist and social activist. Berkeley was born on February 22, 1909. Berkeley earned a BA in mathematics and logic from Harvard University in 1930 and went to work for Mutual Life Insurance of New York as an actuarial clerk. In 1934 he joined Prudential Insurance of America, where he eventually became chief research consultant. In 1941 Berkeley passed his last professional actuarial examinations. Berkeley joined the Navy in 1942 and worked at Dahlgren Laboratory as a mathematician. There, he was assigned to the Harvard Computation Laboratory, where he worked on the sequential calculator project (MARK II).

Berkeley returned to Prudential after leaving the Navy in 1946. In 1947 he helped found the Eastern Association for Computing Machinery and served as its first secretary. In 1948 the association was renamed the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Berkeley left Prudential in 1948 and established Edmund C. Berkeley & Associates, actuarial consultants. In 1954 Berkeley & Associates incorporated as Berkeley Enterprises, Inc.

In 1947 Berkeley presented the idea for a very simple model mechanical brain to the Association for Symbolic Logic in New York. That idea was the focus of the third chapter of Berkeley's book Giant Brains, or Machines That Think (1949). The purpose of the chapter was to introduce a general audience to the fundamentals of computing circuits used in very large mechanical brains. Berkeley named his teaching model Simon in honor of the Mother Goose character Simple Simon. Simon as an actual machine was begun in 1949, and finished in April, 1950. Simon was constructed by the combined efforts of three men: William A. Porter, a skilled mechanic, and two Columbia University electrical engineering graduate students, Robert A. Jensen and Andrew Vall, Berkeley supplemented his income by consulting on the applications, marketing, and uses of automatic machinery for handling information and computing. He published a quarterly computer magazine, which eventually expanded into the monthly journal Computers and Automation . Additionally, he became involved in public education in Massachusetts, and set up correspondence courses in general knowledge, mathematics, computers, and logic systems. He continued to write books on computers, logic, and learning and reviewed books for the Library of Science series. Berkeley marketed his own books, robots, and teaching machines through self-published mail order catalogs. Berkeley sometimes wrote and published under the pseudonym Neil D. MacDonald. Berkeley was active in the peace movement and in 1958 became involved with the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE). Berkeley had worked against the threat of nuclear war ever since he had been part of a "hazards project" at Prudential. The "hazards project" was charged with identifying the greatest modern hazards. Berkeley came to the conclusion that nuclear war was the greatest hazard facing mankind. When Prudential abandoned the project and forbade Berkeley from working on it, even on his own time, he quit. Edmund Berkeley died on March 7, 1988 at the age of 79.

From the guide to the Guide to the Edmund C. Berkeley Papers, 1947-1966, 1951-1953, (Computer History Museum)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Claude Elwood Shannon Papers, 1932-1995, (bulk 1938-1989) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Gaines Collection of Americana, 1786-1981 Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Guide to the Edmund C. Berkeley Papers, 1947-1966, 1951-1953 Computer History Museum
creatorOf Edmund C. Berkeley papers, 1923-1988 University of Minnesota Libraries. Charles Babbage Institute.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arnoni, M. S. person
associatedWith Association for Computing Machinery. corporateBody
associatedWith Berkeley Enterprises. corporateBody
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
associatedWith Cousins, Norman. person
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
correspondedWith Gaines, Pierce Welsh. person
associatedWith Luscomb, Florence, 1887- person
associatedWith Pauling, Linus, 1901- person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Prudential Insurance Company of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Ruchlis, Hyman. person
associatedWith Ruopp, Richard. person
associatedWith SANE, Inc. corporateBody
correspondedWith Shannon, Claude Elwood, 1916-2001 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Antinuclear movement--United States
Berkeley, Edmund Callis
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1909-08-10

Death 1988-10-01

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