History of Numerical Analysis


Oral Histories





Herman H. Goldstine

Full Article (pdf)

Herman Goldstine begins with an overview of the role of numerical computation in history. He then discusses the role of numerical computation at the beginning of the electronic computer age. He emphasizes the role of automating ballistics computation, and recalls the interaction between the Ballistics Research Laboratory at Aberdeen, Maryland and the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in the development of the ENIAC.  He discusses the development of computer architecture and the ability to tackle problems in weather, solution of systems of linear equations, eigenvalue computation and a variety of problems in numerical solution of partial differential equations. He places special emphasis on the influence of John von Neumann, crediting von Neumann and his status for the early acceptance of digital computing.

Key words: exterior ballistics, ENIAC, computer architecture, numerical weather prediction, systems of linear equations, errors in numerical calculation, eigenvalues, shock waves, artificial viscosity, hydrodynamic computation, Monte-Carlo methods, NORC

Funding Agency: U. S. Army, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

Time frame: 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's

People: Grist Brainerd, John Mauchly, Presper Eckert, John von Neumann, Jules Charney, James W. Cooley, John Tukey, James Wilkinson, Frank Murray, Alston Householder, Wallace Givens, Nicolas Metropolis, Stanley Frankel, Robert Richtmeyer, Thomas Watson, Jr.

Location: Ballistics Research Laboratory (Aberdeen); Moore School of Electrical Engineering (University of Pennsylvania), Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton University), Institute of Numerical Analysis (UCLA), Los Alamos National Laboratory

Copyright: Reprinted from "A History of Scientific Computing," Stephen G.
Nash, editor, pp. 5-16. (c) 1990 ACM Press (Association for Computing
Machinery, Inc.) by permission.


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