Howard Aiken

Howard Aiken

Howard Hathaway Aiken (March 8, 1900 March 14, 1973) was a pioneer in computing, being the primary engineer behind IBM's Harvard Mark I computer.

He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later obtained his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University in 1939. During this time, he encountered differential equations that he could only solve numerically. He envisioned an electro-mechanical computing device that could do much of the tedious work for him. This computer was originally called the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) and later renamed Harvard Mark I. With help from Grace Hopper and funding from IBM, the machine was completed in 1944. In 1947, Aiken completed his work on the Harvard Mark II computer. He continued his work on the Mark III and the Harvard Mark IV. The Mark III used some electronic components and the Mark IV was all-electronic. The Mark III and Mark IV used magnetic drum memory and the Mark IV also had magnetic core memory.

Aiken was inspired by Charles Babbage's Difference Engine. In 1958 he received the UW-Madison College of Engineering Engineers Day Award, in 1964 he received the Harry H. Goode Memorial Award, and in 1970, Aiken received IEEE's Edison Medal 'For a meritorious career of pioneering contributions to the development and application of large-scale digital computers and important contributions to education in the digital computer field.'

Historical Timeline for Howard Aiken :

Date Event
May 1944 Harvard Mark I becomes operational
8 Feb 1945 IBM files a patent for the Harvard Mark I




Photograph of Howard Aiken Click for a larger version

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