The Beginning

John Atanasoff in 1938 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.



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