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Alan Richards, courtesy of the Institute for Advanced Study
Four scientists with a computer in 1952. From left, Julian Bigelow, Herman Goldstine, J. Robert Oppenheimer and John von Neumann.

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Deaths (Obituaries)

Science and Technology


International Business Machines Corporation

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Herman Goldstine, Who Helped Build First Computers, Dies at 90


Published: June 26, 2004

Herman Heine Goldstine, a mathematician who worked on the earliest electronic computers and helped the military develop the famous Eniac, died on June 16 at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He was 90.

His death was announced by the T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., which renamed a postdoctoral fellowship in the mathematical sciences in his honor.


Dr. Goldstine, a winner of the National Medal of Science, worked on the Eniac, as the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer was code named, when he was in the Army in World War II. He then became one of the chief scientists of the International Business Machine Corporation for 26 years.

In retirement, he followed his interest in putting science into the larger human context as executive officer of the American Philosophical Society from 1984 to 1997.

In World War II, Dr. Goldstine was an ordnance mathematician calculating artillery firing tables. When the War Department embarked on a top-secret program to develop Eniac, the Army put him in charge of its part of the project. The result had 18,000 vacuum tubes arrayed as number-crunching machinery, measuring 30 by 60 feet and weighing 30 tons. It took 30 months and 200,000 hours of work to contrive; the results were kept under wraps until after the war.

After that, Dr. Goldstine pursued the new computer science in academia and private industry. Born in Chicago, a lawyer's son, he studied mathematics at the University of Chicago, receiving a bachelor's degree Phi Beta Kappa in 1933, a master's degree in 1934, and a Ph.D. in 1936.

He taught at the University of Michigan but left when war broke out to become a ballistics officer in the Army. He advanced to lieutenant colonel and was awarded several medals, eventually being named to the Hall of Fame of the Army Ordnance Department in 1997.

In 1946, Dr. Goldstine joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as a permanent member and assistant project director of its electronic computer project. His work contributed to the second-generation calculator built at the institute by John von Neumann. Dr. von Neumann introduced it in 1952 as Edvac, for Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer.

Dr. Goldstine joined I.B.M. as manager, later director, of mathematical sciences for research in 1958. In 1965, he became director of scientific development for data processing. Part of his responsibilities was to act as liaison between the academic community and the company's research centers. After 1969, he was a scientific consultant to the research director and an I.B.M. fellow.

Dr. Goldstine wrote "The Computer From Pascal to von Neumann" (Princeton, 1972), "New and Full Moons: 1001 B.C. to A.D. 1651" (Am. Phil. Soc., 1973), and "A History of Numerical Analysis From the 16th to the 19th Century" (Springer, 1977).

Dr. Goldstine's first wife, Adele Katz, an Eniac programmer, whom he married in 1941, died in 1964. He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Ellen Watson Goldstine; a son and daughter from his first marriage, Madlen and Jonathan; and four grandchildren.

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