The invention of the electronic digital computer
required a unique combination of interests and areas of knowledge. John
Vincent Atanasoff's range of interests - from mathematical abstractions
to practical electronics began in his childhood and continued throughout
his years as a student and professor.
Atanasoff (pronounced a-tuhn-a'-sawf), was
born in 1903 near Hamilton, New York. When he was only nine years
old, he read a college algebra text which included topics such as
differential calculus, infinite series and the calculation of logarithms.
In the same year, he also found and corrected faulty electric wiring
in a back-porch light.
His continued interest in electricity led to
an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in electrical
engineering. His interest in creating a better computing machine was
developed during his doctoral study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 1925, John Atanasoff came to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on
a teaching fellowship. Beginning in the fall of 1930, he served as
professor in mathematics and physics for the college. During this
period, he experimented with vacuum tubes and radio, and examined
the field of electronics. In 1936, he collaborated with Glen Murphy
to build a "Laplaciometer," a small analog calculator used
for analyzing the geometry of surfaces.