[SIGCIS-Members] Request for biographies

Aristotle Tympas tympas at phs.uoa.gr
Fri Sep 4 10:57:27 PDT 2020

And, of course, Ronald Kline, Steinmetz: Engineer and Socialist.
Steinmetz was head of a GE 'calculating department' out of which came many
calculating methods and materialities of considerable importance. And was
one of the key fiigures behind the introduction of imaginary numbers to
electrical engineering, for calculating purposes (one of his several
contributions to calculation and computation). In addition to implying how
important computing was from early on (an integral part of capitalist
technology from the beginning), Kline's biography can be used as an
excellent introduction to the important yet understudied history of  many
engineers who thought that socialism would evolve rather naturally from
capitalism. This evolutionist view of socialism, highly compatible with a
certain version of technological determinism, was endorsed by many
important engineers around the world throughout the first half of the
twentieth century. Including engineers with significant contributions to
computing technology.

And since the list has no women (unless I missed an email): Brittain,
James E. "From Computer to Electrical Engineer — the Remarkable Career of
Edith Clarke," IEEE Transactions on Education, Vol. E28, No. 4 (November
1985), 184-189. Not a book, but an article on an electrical engineer of
the caliber of Vannevar Bush (or so though Harvard-MIT professor Arthur
Kennelly, Vannevar Bush's advisor and her advisor too) who, being a woman
engineer in the first  half of teh twentieth century, could only go so
far. We have several stories on women computers/computors working in
business and scientific contexts, and several stories of women and
computing in the post-1940s. Clarke's less known story is exemplar of what
computing meant for a woman in the first half of the twetieth century. Her
case certainly deserves a book-length biography. By the way, Jim Brittain,
who had considered writing a biography of Steinmetz after writing articles
on him, decided to focus on Alexanderson (J. Brittain, Alexanderson:
Pioneer in American Electrical Engineering). An exemplar biography by a 
pioneer and master historian of technology who helped several of us in
many ways.



Sorry if this response is too much. There are a lot
of biographies about computer pioneers, but less so "computer scientists."
I've left off autobiographies & memoirs but can supply a list if you
wish. The following biographies tend to skew older, which is fine with me.
Warning: the quality does vary:
Paul Ceruzzi



John von Neumann and the
Origins of Modern Computing 



Herman Hollerith: Forgotten
Giant of Information Processing 


Thomas and Marva 

Lengthening Shadow, the: the
life of Thomas J, Watson 



Man behind the microchip, the:
Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley 



Memoir of the Life and Labours
of the Late Charles Babbage ESQ. F.R.S. 


I. Bernard 

Howard Aiken: Portrait of a
Computer Pioneer 



Heinz Nixdorf: Eine Biographie
[in German] 



Alan Turing: The enigma: the
extraordinary story of the brilliant scientist… 



Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the



John von Neumann: The
Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear
Deterrence, and Much More 



Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul
Reinvented an Industry - and Made Himself the Richest Man in America


Clark R. 

Atanasoff: Forgotten Father of
the Computer 






Think: A Biography of the
Watsons and IBM 



The Man Who Invented the
Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer 


Betty Alexandra 

Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers
- Prophet of the Computer Age 

Van Dormael 


Heinz Nixdorf: A German
Computer Pioneer 



Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the
Making of the Microsoft Empire 


G. Pascal 

Endless Frontier: Vannevar
Bush, Engineer of the American Century 



From: Members
on behalf of Troy Astarte 
 Sent: Friday, September 4,
2020 9:06 AM
 To: members 

Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Request for

External Email -
Exercise Caution
Dear all,
Very many thanks to everyone who has sent suggestions, I’ve got a
great reading list! I’ve already had a look at a few of them, and there’s
some high quality work indeed. The only further question I would have is
whether there are biographies with a higher technical content? Perhaps
that just isn’t common in biographies? 

Troy Astarte
School of Computing
Newcastle University

On 3 Sep 2020, at 12:31, Troy Astarte
Troy.Astarte at newcastle.ac.uk> wrote:

What is your favourite biography of a scientist or mathematician? I’m
particularly interested in modern subjects and those who worked in
computing/computer science. Ideally the book would cover the subject’s
work in a reasonable level of technical detail as well as their life and
the broader context in which they lived and worked.
I ask because I am considering applying for funding for an
essentially biographical project on a computer scientist and I would like
to read some (more) biographies first. 

Troy Astarte
School of Computing
Newcastle University

Aristotle Tympas
Department of History
and Philosophy of Science
Graduate Program ‘Science, Technology,
Society—Science and Technology Studies’
Graduate Program ‘History and
Philosophy of Science and Technology’
National and Kapodistrian
University of Athens

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