School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

John W. Mauchly
  • John W. Mauchly
  • Born: August 30, 1907
  • Died: January 8, 1980
  • Field: Computer hardware; computer engineering
  • Focus: Developed, with Presper Eckert, the ENIAC, BINAC, and UNIVAC computers, innovative early contributions to the computing industry.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1950 to 1969

John Mauchly grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He went to school in Washington DC where his father was employed as a physicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1925 John was awarded a scholarship by the State of Maryland to allow him to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He began studying engineering at Johns Hopkins but his interests changed in the course of his studies towards pure science and his first degree was in physics.

Mauchly continued studying physics after taking his first degree and he was awarded his doctorate in 1932. He then taught physics at a number of different colleges and spent some time at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC undertaking research on analysing the weather. By 1940, Mauchly was teaching physics at Ursinus College near Philadelphia. While there he became interested in developing electronic computers which combined his interests in physics and engineering. It may seem strange today that someone with an interest in engineering would be drawn towards building computers, but at this time a computer was a huge mechanical construction. Also, Mauchly's interests were in electrical engineering and he looked for ways to develop electrical circuits for computation.

Mauchly then collaborated with John Eckert in the construction of the Electronic Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). The machine was intended to be a general purpose one, but it was also designed for a very specific task, namely compiling tables for the trajectories of bombs and shells.

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