History of Numerical Analysis


Oral Histories





Harry Polachek

Link: http://invention.smithsonian.org/downloads/fa_cohc_tr_pola700324.pdf

Harry Polachek received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Yeshiva University and a masters degree from Columbia University. For financial reasons, he attended Columbia part time to complete the course work for his PhD. During the war, he took a job at Aberdeen Proving Ground, computing firing tables using the Bush Differential Analyser. He finished his dissertation at Columbia after the war. Polachek recalls being introduced to the work on the ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania as part of his work at Aberdeen. He also met John von Neumann for the first time. After the war, he began his career with the Navy,  joining the Navy Bureau of Ordnance and moving on the the Naval Ordnance Laboratory and the David Taylor Model Basin. He recounts his interaction with John von Neumann on a range of problems in computing, including explosives,  shock waves, and Mach effects. He relates the story of the design and development of the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) (in which John von Neumann had a hand) and the development of the UNIVAC at the David Taylor Model Basin.

Key words: firing tables, Bush Differential Analyzer, explosives, shock waves, Mach effect, Manhattan Project, shaped charges, MARK I, IBM Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator, Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC), UNIVAC

Funding agency:  U. S. Army, U.S. Navy

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

People:  John von Neumann, Richard Courant, Kurt Friedrichs, Feodor Theilheimer, John W. Wrench, Daniel Shanks, Betty Holberton,  John Holberton

Locations: Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ballistics Research Laboratory, Navy Bureau of Ordnance, Institute for Advanced Study, Naval Ordnance Laboratory, IBM Watson Laboratory -New York City, David Taylor Model Basin

Copyright: Computer Oral History Center, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation http://Invention.Smithsonian.Org/Resources/Fa_Comporalhist_Index.Aspx
Smithsonian National Museum of American History


Copyright ©, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
3600 University City Science Center | Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA
Phone: +1-215-382-9800 | FAX: +1-215-386-7999
site map | [email protected]

This project is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Energy.