The Kathleen McNulty Mauchly
How It All Began
The earliest thing that I can remember is lying on the
vestibule floor of my house with my two brothers. We were looking under the
door to see if the goat was outside the house. If he was, we weren’t going out.
This happened in my house in Ireland where I was born on February
12, 1921. It was in the
northwest part of Ireland in
a small town called Creeslough in Donegal
County. Creeslough means
“surrounded by lakes.” It is about 25 miles from Letterkenny. I was born on the
same land where my father’s family had lived since 1804. They had received a
big portion of land on the slope of a hill called Cruckatee in
sight of an ugly sand mountain called Muchish. It is the second largest
of 2 mountains in Donegal. Although ugly
and so rocky and sandy nothing can grow on it, the Muchish sand
was used to make very fine porcelain for several years .. Our land was a big portion of about 160
acres, that ran from the top of Cruckatee Hill where there was a lake down to
My father’s family had lived there for over a hundred years.
There were 7 children in his family. He was the youngest. His oldest brother
was 12 years older. His father died when he was 2 and his mother when he was
14. His oldest brother had inherited the place. My father wanted to find a
career for himself. An older brother had gone to America and was studying to be a
stonemason. Also, he had 3 uncles who had gone to America. So, he decided to come to America, too,
and take a 3-year apprenticeship to become a stonemason. One of the people who
happened to study with him was John B. Kelly who later became a famous builder
in Philadelphia and Washington,
D. C. and even later became the father of Grace Kelly who married Prince Ranier
My father became friends with Kelly and they remained friends for the rest of
their lives. My father usually worked for Kelly.
While serving his apprenticeship, he was also active in
Irish Politics in the Philadelphia Area where it was very active. My father
became an Irish Volunteer (picture) and
studied how to drill and train troops. The group raised money for guns and
ammunition and trained to return to Ireland to throw out the British.
He wasn’t all work and seriousness. He was also a champion Irish Step Dancer
and won many medals for it. In 1915, he got typhoid fever and went home to Ireland
While he was there, my mother and father decided to get
married. She lived about 20 miles from
Feymore, the name of my father’s family farm. My father asked his
brother who owned the farm if he could build a house for the couple on the
farm. His brother gave him permission, and he built an American-style house. He
built it in 1916 and 17. It was a 2-story house. My mother and father were
married in February, 1917 and had the wedding reception in the new house. The house
was built with a secret panel in the floor, where he stored a secret cache of
guns and ammunition for the Irish Rebels. My father became very active in the
rebellion and trained the local troops.
In 1918, my brother Patrick was born, one year later my
brother James was born and 2 years later, in 1921, I was born. The night I was
born, my father was arrested and kept in Derry Jail in solitary confinement for
2 years without any charges ever being brought against him and no trial. What
happened was that he was with a group of men who blew up a bridge. The other
men fled and hid on a hill behind our house. My father, who had left my mother
with the midwife, knew my birth was imminent. He came home to be with my mother
and stayed until I was born. He had time to tell them to call me Kathleen after
his mother and grandmother before he was arrested by the Black and Tan. Many
Irishmen were arrested that night but most of the other men with him at the
bridge were not caught. After 2 years, he was brought to trial, but there were
no charges against him so he was released. By the way, the Black and Tan when
they searched the house never discovered the guns and ammunition hidden under
After his release from jail in 1923, my father felt that he
just couldn’t live under the new Irish Free State regime, so he decided to
return to America
and arrange for his family to move there later. One of his brothers was in Philadelphia so my father came and joined him to form a
company to buy land and build houses in Chestnut Hill, a northwest section of Philadelphia. After a while, he built a house for us in
Wyndmoor, a section of Chestnut Hill, and sent for us. In the meantime, a
little sister Anna was born. We made arrangements to go to Philadelphia, and we all had to be vaccinated
for smallpox. My little sister got vaccine poison and we couldn’t travel until
she recovered. In October, 1924, we sailed for the United States. My father met us in New York and took us to our new, furnished
house in Wyndmoor, where we lived for 2 years.
We spoke only Gaellic in our house in Ireland and the United States. My brothers,
however, had started school and learned
English. They brought their books home and I learned to read in English,
although I probably didn’t pronounce the words right. After another little
sister Cecelia was born, we sold our house in Wyndmoor and bought a larger
house on Highland Avenue
in Chestnut Hill. When I was finally ready to go to school in 1927, I was
already 61/2 years old, and I had learned English and arithmetic from my
brothers. I was quite advanced for my grade and did very well in school.
When I was in the second half of third grade, I was advanced
to the second half of fourth grade, thus I skipped a grade. Every year, I got
the highest grades in my class. I was never absent or late. I loved school. I
loved everything about it, the classes, the games, the friends, There was a
library near, and I could stop on the way home from school and check out these
wonderful books I wanted to read. Also, on the way home from school, there was
a bank with semicircular steps in front of it. I used to sit on the steps in
front of the bank and tell stories to the other children gathered around me. I
told both the stories I read in books and also those I made up. Eventually, my
mother would send one of my brothers to tell me to come home.
One of my favorite things to do was ice skate. When that
wasn’t possible, I would roller skate. I never had my own bicycle, but I did
occasionally borrow one of my brothers” bikes to ride. There was a wonderful
playground in Chestnut Hill where they taught gymnastics and tap dancing. They
also gave a play every year, so I was always involved in that sort of stuff. I
also started to take piano lessons when I was in fourth grade. I never could
sing. I never could carry a tune. I was not musical although I plunked away on
Eventually, as all the children went to school and learned
English, we spoke English at home. In fact, Anna, Cecilia, and little John born
in 1929, never learned Gaellic. I was always good in math, but my brother Jim
hated it, so my mother made me sit and help my brother with his math problems.
My brother Patrick hated memorizing poetry, but his school forced him to learn
one poem such as “The Charge of the Light Brigade” every month, so my mother
made me sit with him at night and listen to him recite a poem over and over
until he learned it. Working with my brothers, I learned the course work for
each grade long before I got there.
My father’s oldest brother got very lonely
living in the family house in Ireland
when all his brothers and sisters had moved away, so he decided to come to America to live
with us. He cane in 1928, and he lived
with us until he died at the age of 84. He never married and had no children so
he willed the family home in Ireland
to my father.
At about the same time, my mother’s
younger brother decided he too wanted to come to America and live with us. He lived
with us until he married in 1937. So all the time I was growing up these two
uncles lived with us. It was a good thing actually because after the stock
market crash in 1929, few people were buying custom-built houses so my father
and his brother decided to split up and seek employment elsewhere. My father
went to work for John B. Kelly. Most of the time, during the 1930s, my father
worked in Washington, D. C., coming home only every other weekend. He worked on
the Jefferson Memorial, the Treasury
Building and the
Fortunately, the house on Highland Avenue was quite a large one to
accommodate this Irish family, a mother and father, 3 boys, 3 girls and 2
uncles. The uncles were always there to help with homework or anything else
that required an adult male’s help.
I absolutely loved my father. He had an easy sense of humor
and had a number of quaint sayings that he would use to make a point. For
example, if he asked me a question and I replied with “Maybe,” he would say
“Maybees don’t make honey.” He believed that education was something that was
not heavy to carry around with you, thus he wanted all of his children to get
as much education as possible.
Later in life, when I visited my father’s sister in California, she told me
that when he was young, my father could talk to animals. Rabbits and foxes
would come and sit by him while he talked to them. I noticed in my own house
when I had German Shepherds, which I love even though they tend to be
protective and hostile to outsiders, they always treated him with respect and
walked beside him. . We always had Collie dogs when I was growing up. Not the
small Border Collies but large English Collies. .
My father was a gentle, loving man. When he died in 1978, he
was living in Ireland, but
we brought his body back to Philadelphia
to be buried beside my mother. There were many people who came to the funeral
whom I did not know. When I would ask them who they were, they would say, “You
don’t know me. I just came to honor an Irish hero.”
My mother was a very
attractive woman. Through necessity and temperament, she was quite bossy and
managed the family very well. She could do everything. She made almost all of
our clothes. If she found a particularly nice piece of fabric, she would make 3
identical dresses for Anna, Cecilia, and me.
She felt that learning to be a “lady” didn’t cost anything so we girls
should learn to be one. I had to learn how to do Irish crocheting, Irish
embroidery, knitting, how to set a table, and how to sit down carefully in a
chair. Both of my parents seemed to believe that having bright kids made them
obligated to be sure that they did well in school. My mother always expected me
to bring home “first” prizes. Anything else was unacceptable. She also wanted
to prove that Irish immigrants could be as good, if not better, than anybody.
She was very well organized and very hard working. She didn’t manage my father,
We were the only children on Highland Avenue. All the other people who
lived there were older with children grown and gone. All of them treated us as
though we were their grandchildren. We always went to show them how we looked
in new clothes. They always had us run little errands for them, such as going
to the store for bread or milk. My
mother was always generous with her time and hard work which she gave to any
neighbor that needed it.. They gave us presents for Christmas. When we had a
special occasion, such as first communion, we had to go show the neighbors how
we looked in our finery. It was a
wonderful, friendly street.
My parents had a good relationship. They had lots of friends.
Both loved to dance. There were many Irish “living out girls” in the area.
These were Irish immigrant girls who worked for wealthy people. The local
Catholic Church sponsored dances for these girls as well as other parishioners.
My parents went to these dances as well as to parties at the Kelly house. My
father always planned an outing when he came home for the weekend. I can
remember canoeing on Wissahichon Creek in Fairmount Park. I remember also that there was John Barry Day
every year. It was named after Commodore Barry the one that the Commodore Barry Bridge
was named for. He was a famous Irishmen, and there was a celebration every year
down by Independence Hall where we would go to meet famous Irishmen.
I had a wonderful
relationship with my brothers. I was especially close to Jim, who was very
placid, and loved history. We were close up until he died a few years ago.
Also, we looked alike.
Patrick, on the other hand, was very bossy, in temperament
like my mother. He was always captain of his sports team, football or
basketball. No matter what was arranged, he was always in charge. I had a good
relationship and understanding with him, however. For example, one time in our
later years, he bought a house in Ambler near where I lived. I went to see it
and he took me out to the garden where he was growing some peas. He just bent
down and picked some pea pods and gave them to me. He never said a word but
opened the pods in his hand and began to eat them as I also did with those in
my hands. We didn’t say a word, but we both remembered doing this as children
in our garden in Chestnut Hill. Although
we didn’t talk about it, I just always knew that we had the same wonderful
feelings about a lot of things.
My sister Anna went to the University of Pennsylvania
where she majored in Accounting and went on to become a CPA. Cecila went to Chestnut Hill College
for a Major in History. Then she got a Masters in Special Education and taught
in the Philadelphia School System. My brother John never went to college but
worked for John B. Kelly as an appraiser. Four of us were married within a year
and a half after World War II. Jim in November of 1947, I in February, 1948,
Anna in August, 1948, and Cecilia in April of 1949.
Outside the Home
When I graduated from grammar school, I got a prize for
perfect attendance for the 7 years I was there. I got a first prize for my
grades, and one for my handwriting. Unlike today, handwriting was considered an
important skill. Everything was wonderful.
Then I went to Hallahan
High School, an all girls
school. It was located in downtown Philadelphia,
across from the Franklin Institute at 19th and Vine. It took me 1¼
hours to get there every day. I rode a
bus, then the subway, and walked the last mile. I went there for 4 years. All
my friends went there, too. I had a great time. I never went in for any sports.
I was never good at sports. I did work on the newspaper. I was a good student,
on the honor roll for 3 years. My mother was ill when I was in my sophomore
year, and I had to stay home to care for her. The school had the rule that a
student couldn’t be on the honor roll if she missed more than 2 weeks of
school, which I did when my mother was ill, so no honor roll that sophomore
I took only one exam for a scholarship, the Mayor’s
Scholarship, but I didn’t win it. Shortly after I graduated, Chestnut Hill
College offered me a
scholarship because of my high school marks. That was absolutely wonderful
because otherwise I had no idea what I would do. I had taken an academic course
in high school. I had taken 4 years of math, 4 years of English, 4 years of
Latin, 3 years of French, and s year of each biology and chemistry. When I got
to college and my counselor asked me what I wanted to major in, I thought that
since I was there on a scholarship, I would have to keep my marks up. The
easiest way to do that was to take math as a major. I loved it and found it fun
and easy to do. I didn’t want to teach. I just wanted to do the math puzzles.
I took algebra, differential calculus, integral calculus,
differential equations, different kinds of geometry, astronomy, and 2 years of
physics. Originally, I intended to minor in physics. At the end of my sophomore
year, I begin to think about what I could do to earn a living after I
graduated. What on earth could I do except teach with a degree in math? I
didn’t want to teach. I thought that business sounded like a good thing, so I
changed my minor to business administration. Then I took courses in business,
accounting, money and banking, and anything else that had to do with
World War II had started in December of my senior year. My
two older brothers, Patrick and Jim, joined the navy. This really shook my family
up because every thing about Pearl Harbor
frightened everyone. My brothers were working in what would become defense
plants before enlisting in the navy. Patrick had been doing very well. He was
quite ingenuous and had a number of patents, but, like all other young men, he
wanted to get in a military service and do his part for the defense of the
country. Actually a number of young men from Chestnut Hill were killed at Pearl Harbor
The summer before my senior year, everyone was anticipating
the war, and I took a job for a company that made fuse cups out of bakelite.
That summer, I thought I should do something that might be something I could do
after graduation. I went to an employment agency, and they said that they had a
job for a bookkeeper. I had taken
accounting, but I knew nothing about bookkeeping. They told me to report to
this company on Monday morning. I went to the library and asked for all the
books they had on bookkeeping and proceeded to spend the weekend learning all I
could about it. It worked out very well and I stayed with that company until
school started in the fall
My Career During WW II
About 2 weeks after I graduated in the Spring of 1942, there
was an ad in the Philadelphia
paper saying, “Looking for women math majors.” The army was looking for math
majors, and they were to report to a recruiting office, which happened to be
the Union League in downtown Philadelphia.
There were only 3 math majors in my class, Fran Bilas, Josephine Benson and me.
I phoned them and suggested that we go down and apply. Jo lived in the
Northeast Section of Philadelphia and she said her parents wouldn’t let her
work at night. The ad had indicated there was some night work. So she didn’t
go, but Fran and I went down the next day to apply for the jobs. When we got
there, the recruiter asked us about what math courses we had taken. When we
told him, he said that we were exactly what they needed and to report to the
Aberdeen Proving Ground group at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at
the University if Pennsylvania on July 1. The Moore
School was on the corner of 33rd
and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia
Fran Bilas and I were hired as “computers” with a
sub-professional rating of SP-6 for a salary of $1620 per year base salary with
extra for Saturday. We worked 6 days a week with only Sunday off. We thought it
was a magnificent salary for it worked out to be over $35 per week while
secretaries made about $15 per week. In fact, it was more money than I ever
dreamed of earning.
When we got to the Moore School,
we were taken to a room where there were about 8 other women and 2 or 3 men.
The manager of the group was John Holberton, a Southerner from Virginia with a
pronounced Southern accent. The immediate supervisor was a little woman named
Lila Todd. She had gotten her math degree a couple of years earlier. She was
tiny but a little dynamo.
We were told that we
had been hired to calculate trajectories and here was a book (Scarborough)
to tell us how to do it. We read it but didn’t know any more when we finished
than when we started. Finally, they showed us these big sheets of paper with
columns that represented the calculations showing the path a shell traced as it
traveled from the mouth of a gun through the air until it reached the ground.
We were to use the desk calculator, a Marchant, Friden or Monroe, to perform
the additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions and square roots
required by the numerical integration method Aberdeen used to calculate the trajectory. It
took a person about 40 hours to do the calculations for each trajectory using
the desk calculator.
The army supplied a
complete firing table for each new gun they used. A firing table required many
trajectories tracing the path of the shell for different angles of elevation of
the muzzle of the gun. The soldiers used the firing table to tell them what the
angle of elevation should be to reach a distant target. The trajectory
calculations took into account the muzzle velocity of the shell, the angle of
elevation of the muzzle, the distance the gun was from sea level, the air
temperature and the humidity, all of which affected the speed of the shell, the
height to which it traveled and the distance it traveled. . Many new guns were
introduced during the war and Aberdeen
was having a hard time getting the firing tables done for them.
Now there was a large machine called the Differential
Analyzer at the Moore
School. It was an analog
computer, i.e. it used gears and shafts to represent the numbers used to
calculate trajectories. Because of the war, it was requisitioned by Aberdeen to do these
trajectories. It could calculate a trajectory in about ¾ of an hour to within
5% accuracy. It took about 3 to 4 days to set it up with the various conditions
for each new gun. It was being run by army personnel with the technical
supervision and assistance from Moore
When Fran and I were at the Moore School,
we did hand calculation of trajectories for about 2 weeks. Then they told us
about the Differential Analyzer, which was in the basement of the Moore School.
We were taken to see it and given instructions on how to set up the analyzer to
do trajectories. They wanted to recall the military personnel and replace them
with civilians, Fran and me. The
Differential Analyzer was run 16 hours a day. The military personnel was kept
on for about a year until Fran and I were trained and until 2 more women were
hired because the University required at least 2 people in the Analyzer room
all the time. Then Fran and I split the different shifts and each ran the
Analyzer with other women.
Joe Chapline was the
maintenance engineer of the Analyzer, and Cornelious Weygandt was the overall
manager of it. Both Joe and Dr. Weygandt worked for the Moore
School, but Fran and I worked for Aberdeen. Jack Cook and
Jack Davis who were still students also worked to improve the Analyzer.
School was quite small at
that time with only 7 or 8 Professors and less than 100 students. It had only 2
stories, the third floor was added in 1945
The hand calculations were more accurate than the Analyzer,
so at least one hand calculated trajectory was done before the Analyzer was set
up for a new gun. The setup of the Analyzer was done to mirror as much as
possible the hand calculation for the first trajectory. Over time, the gears and settings would drift
somewhat. The engineers were always working to improve the machine’s accuracy.
The Differential Analyzer room was marked as a “Restricted”
area and the door to it was kept locked. It was also the only air- conditioned
room in the Moore
School. It was air
conditioned to maintain a constant temperature so the Analyzer hardware would
not be affected by temperature changes because metal expands and contracts as
the temperature goes up and down.
I’m not sure how restricted the analyzer room was the first
summer I was there, the summer of 1942, because it was ungodly hot that summer
and the professors would come down and use the room for meetings. Pres Eckert
and a group of engineers were working on the roof of the Moore School
under a contract with MIT. It was for radar studies. It was hot, they were all
in shorts except Pres, and they would come in the Analyzer room to cool off.
Pres was always dressed in dark trousers with a white monogrammed shirt and
tie. One time, I asked him why he
dressed that way, and he said, “I just put on whatever my mother lays out for
me to wear.”
Eventually, the Moore
School set up a V-5
program providing officers’ training for the navy. One of those students was
Josh Gray who eventually became my brother-in-law when he married my younger
In the fall of1942, Lieutenant Goldstine was sent up from Aberdeen to coordinate operations and to be the liaison between
the Moore School
His mission apparently was to speed up the production of the firing tables. He
recruited his wife to help him recruit more women math majors or women who had
had some math. She recruited women from all over the country. Adele Goldstine
was a mathematician. In fact, Herman met her when she was a student of his at
the University of
Chicago. She set up
courses to train new recruits in calculating techniques on desk calculators.
Some women showed up in the Differential Analyzer room for training on its
operation and use.
In 1943, we heard there was a new calculator being built at
the Moore School, but we knew nothing about it. We
had nothing to do with it. New employees showed up and eventually a group of
women were hired to work on wiring what was the ENIAC although at that time it
was called the Project X.
The first time I really knew anything about it was in early
1944. Pres Eckert and John Mauchly came
into the Analyzer room one night, all excited, and said for us, Alice Snyder
and me, to come and see this. They took us to an enclosed area in front of the
room where the PX was being built. The enclosed area was about 6 or 8 feet
square with a big sign saying, “High Voltage, Keep Out.” Inside, they had 2 accumulators connected
together with a long cord attached with a control button on it (a remote
control). They said, “Look at this.” One
accumulator had a 5 in it. One of them pushed a button and the 5 appeared in
the other accumulator 3 places over, reading 5000. We were dumbfounded and
asked what was so great about that. You used all this equipment to multiply 5
by 1000. They explained that the 5 had been transferred from the one
accumulator to the other a thousand times in an instant of time. We had no
appreciation at all of what this really meant.
This was the famous 2-accumulator test that proved their
idea for the PX (ENIAC) would work. No wonder they were excited. This was my
first introduction to the ENIAC although
I hadn’t seen the actual machine.
We knew this calculator was being built at the Moore School,
but nobody talked to us about it, and we really had no idea what it looked
like. I never went into the PX room because it was classified “Confidential”
with signs saying that no one without clearance was allowed in the room. I
don’t remember who told us they were looking for ENIAC operators, but I do
remember that we were asked if we would be willing to go to Aberdeen with it. I thought that if that was
where the job was, I would go there. I don’t remember who told me that I had
been selected or even remember the train ride to Aberdeen. I do remember what it was like once
we got there. This was the first time I had ever been to Aberdeen Proving
Ground. I had heard about it but never seen it.
We were housed in a one-story women’s dormitory with about 30 rather austere rooms,
each room was shared by two people. It was probably built on a cornfield. It
was on the far side of Aberdeen.
We always got there by walking. It had a large lavatory with about 8 sinks, 4
shower stalls and several toilets. It also had a large living room where we
could greet and entertain guests from Philadelphia.
There were 5 of us. Betty Snyder had worked for the computing unit at the University of Pennsylvania as long as I had although I
had never worked with her. Marlyn Wescoff had worked for John Mauchly at the Moore School
then had moved over to the Aberdeen
computing group. Ruth Lichterman had
been recruited from New York.
I had seen Ruth and Marlyn but didn’t know them. Betty Jennings had come from Missouri, and I had
never even seen her before.
Ruth and Marlyn were friends and roomed together. Although
the 2 Bettys didn’t really know each other, they roomed together. I never
really got to know my roommate very well, but I do remember that she got up
every morning to iron a shirt for her boyfriend.
I had lived at home when I went to college so this was the
first time I had ever lived in this sort of place. It was really like a
There were no cooking facilities in our dorm so we walked
every night to a diner on the main highway in Aberdeen. For breakfast, sometimes, we ate in
town. But usually we ate breakfast and lunch on the base. There was a small
train that ran from a terminal in the
middle of Aberdeen
to the Army Base and to the new Ordnance Laboratory that was built to house the
ENIAC and the other computers that were there, the IBM punched card
machines, the Stibitz Machine.and the
Differential Analyzer. Their Analyzer was about half the size of the one at the
None of us had ever had any experience with IBM Punched Card
Equipment. We had a wonderful instructor. He taught us how to handle the cards
and how to wire up the plugboards to control the card reader, card punch,
keypunch, verifier, sorter and tabulator. Aberdeen
had a lot of punched card equipment. IBM had even built them a multiplier. I remember the woman who ran the group was
Minerva Masoncup. She was a martinet but very competent. Our teacher even let
us document a fourth difference board he
had designed for the tabulator .He was very supportive and wonderful to us.
The Ordnance Laboratory was a new building, and it had
separate toilet facilities for the blacks. I was horrified. I had never seen
anything like this before. I was amazed and appalled. Maryland was really a Southern State. There
were separate schools for the blacks and the whites. The schools for the whites
were in town and beautiful while the schools for blacks were outside of town
and shacks. I couldn’t believe that any state would tolerate this. There were
not very many blacks employed by Aberdeen.
We gradually learned our way around and sometimes went to Baltimore, which was only
30 miles away, for dinner. We didn’t know each other so we had a good time
discussing all sorts of things. We were all very different from each other and
we had great discussions about religion, our families, politics, and our work.
Me, with my Irish Catholic background. Betty Snyder, with her Quaker
upbringing. Betty Jennings, with her Midwest,
Bible Belt, farm experiences. Ruth, with
her Jewish New York City sophistication. And Marlyn, with her more relaxed Philadelphia Jewish
traditions. We had so much fun sitting
up at night arguing and telling stories. We never ran out of things to say to
each other. We were always happy to be with each other. We were a very cohesive
group. It was a great, wonderful
When we got back from Aberdeen,
we weren’t really given anyplace to sit. I couldn’t go back to the Analyzer
room because I no longer worked there. We just found whatever place we could to
sit. The first place we were assigned was a roon next to Dean Pender’s offices.
There we were introduced to Stan Frankel and his wife Mary, who were from Los Alamos. We
knew nothing about Los Alamos, but we enjoyed
meeting them. They had been there earlier but they were called back to Los Alamos. It turned out that they had been called back
for the atom bomb test at Almagordo for the Trinity test in late July 1945.
Shortly thereafter the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, and Nagasaki, August 9. Then on August 14, Japan
surrendered. It was the end of the war with Japan. Everyone was ecstatic. All
of us had expected the war with Japan
to continue for years, but the dropping of the atom bombs had changed all of
that. I remember VJ Day but it is all hazy because of the excitement. John
Holberton took me to pick up my sister-in-law. Pat was in the South Pacific on
Admiral Halsey’s ship, and I knew she would be delighted. We went to downtown
Philadelpia where there was wild cheering, singing, dancing and laughing.
Everyone was grabbing everyone else and kissing them. We were all so happy that
the war was finally over. We were out of our minds with joy.
After that, we spent our time learning to read block
diagrams and wiring diagrams. We had no programming manuels, just block
diagrams of the machine. I do remember sitting in a classroom with Arthur Burks
who told us how to read a block diagram. Nobody else remembers this so perhaps
it was before we had our own places to sit. That is how we learned to program
the ENIAC, by reading block diagrams.
Sometime in here, we took some time off to do some
trajectories by hand. I believe John Holberton
assigned them to us. Then for a couple of months, we just sat in our room and
figured out how to program the ENIAC.
Finally, one day in
October, we were invited down to the ENIAC room where we were met by
Herman Goldstine, John Mauchly, Pres Eckert, Stan Frankel and Nick Metropolis. We were
told that Nick and Stan had programmed a problem related to their work in Los Alamos and it was to be test problem for the
ENIAC. We were given the strips of paper
that told us switch settings and cable placements
on each panel to do the problem. We had never seen any of these units before,
but the punch card reader and punch which were the Input/Output for the ENIACc
were familiar to us. We were all very excited because none of us, the
Programmers, had ever seen it before. Nick and Stan had also worked out a test
run for their problem. The Moore
School group also had
tests that they ran on the ENIAC. They were a series of calculations of sines
and cosines to test that all the units of the ENIAC were working error-free.
The ENIAC had a feature that helped test a program as well
as the hardware. It could be set to run at full speed, 100,000 cycles/pulses
per second. Or it could be set to run one-add time at a time. There were 20
pulses in an add-time so it stopped at every 20 pulses. Or it could be set to
run one pulse at a time. This gave the operator the chance to look at the state
of the machine at these various intervals to determine just when an error had
occurred. These controls were mounted on a small unit that could be held in the
hand. It was attached to a flexible cable so it was a remote control. As
operators, our job was to track down where an error had occurred. Once we found
out which tube was malfunctioning it was up to the maintenance man, either
Homer Spence or Goldstein, an army corporal, to replace the failing unit.
I worked on one of the shifts with either Nick or Stan to
run the program. It seemed that Eckert and Mauchly also alternated working with
Nick and Stan. Stan and Mauchly were night owls and tended to work at night
while Nick and Eckert worked in the daytime. From notes we would find in the
morning, it seemed that Mauchly had usually worked all night. Nick and Stan had
run the IBM Punched Card Group in Los Alamos.
They were very sophisticated punched card users. After the problem was
finished, we were told that the Los Alamos Problem had used 1,000,000 IBM Punch
cards. They continued working during December and January.
Then we were told
wanted to have a big event announcing the introduction of the ENIAC on
Feburary15, 1946 for the army brass, government agencies, universities and world class scientists.. However, they
had a pre-announcement for the press on February 1. The press was forbidden to
make the announcement until after the big announcement later that month. For
the Press Event, only the test programs for the ENIAC were run. The trajectory
program was not run as the demonstration problem until the February 15. event.
This date is always considered the announcement date of the ENIAC.
For the big
announcement, the ENIAC Programmers were asked to be hostesses to greet all the
big shots and show them around. Someone told me that Dr. Norbert Weiner was
here. I went up to him and said I would like to take his coat and hang it some
place where he could get it later in the day. He said, “Oh, my coat. I guess my
wife packed it in my suitcase and I haven’t taken it out.” He had come all the
way from Boston
on this cold, cold day without an overcoat. Most attendees were from various
universities and government agencies. That night Penn gave a big dinner with
all the army brass, and I think that is the day that this picture was taken.
(picture) The funny thing is that they had all the men take off their glasses
so they are all squinting.
I ran the tabulator to print up the sheets that were the
output of the demonstrations. These we handed out to the attendees. Everyone
wanted a copy for a souvenir.
The interesting thing
about that demonstration was that the neon lights that showed the numbers being
calculated in the accumulators were faint and didn’t show up on the newsreels.
To make them show up for the big demonstration, Pres and John screwed what
looked like ½ ping pong white balls into the front of the accumulators and
painted the number on the front.of the balls. This made quite a spectacular
display ln the accumulators.
After the demonstration, Dr. Frankel had to leave, but Dr.
Metropolis stayed and a physicist named Tony Turkovitz came and put the Los
Alamos Problem back on the ENIAC. They worked for about a month. Nick left and
Tony’s brother John who was a physicist came to work on the problem. Tony and
John’s father was the Metropolitan (head bishop) of the Greek Orthodox Church
Sometime in here, the engineers decided to redo parts of the
square rooter which had some flaws in it.
Then Harry Husky and Dr. Hans Radamacher from Penn did some
studies on roundoff and truncation errors. The ENIAC rounded off by putting a 5
in the least significant digit of an accumulator, if programmed to do so. This
meant that all numbers were rounded up when the least significant digit of a
number was a 5 or larger and down if the least significant number was less than
5. As more and more numbers were calculated the roundoff errors grew. In
numerical integration when replacing a curve by a series of straight lines, the
calculated series of lines becomes closer to the curve when the interval of
integration is small. When the interval is small it takes more and more calculations
to generate the lines The more calculations the greater the roundoff errors.
These studies were done to try to determine what the optimum interval of
integration should be to produce the calculations that most closely followed
the curved line.
Sometime in April of 1946, Dr. Douglas Hartree arrived from Cambridge, England
to work on a problem that he wanted to put on the ENIAC. I understand that he
had been here before and had seen the ENIAC. Although it was supposed to be a
classified project, it was known about in a number of places. Apparently,
Goldstine had invited a number of people from England to come see the ENIAC.
Anyway, Hartree arrived with his problem that had to do with the boundary
layers of the airflow around an airplane wing.
He had already programmed his problem, which meant he was already
familiar with the ENIAC.
I was given his program to go through and see if the
programming was right. There were some errors and he and I worked together for
a couple of months trying to put his program on the ENIAC We never got any
useful results. One time he had to go to the
of Wisconsin where there was a world famous astronomer
named Chandra Seckar. Hartree gave me all sorts of instructions on what to do
if I ever got to run his problem on the ENIAC while he was gone, but I never
got any time on the computer. Hartree came back and stayed another couple of
weeks. I’m not sure whether he had found an error in his calculations of the
problem at that time or not. But, he did leave about the middle of July, after
he had given one of the famous Moore School Lectures that had been organized by
Pres Eckert and John Mauchly for Dr.
Carl Chambers of the Moore
School. Later on, he did
discover that he had made some false assumptions in his calculations, and. even
if we have run it, the results would have been invalid.
Dr. Hartree was a complete delight to work with in every
way. He was interesting, fun, thoughtful.
It is interesting that when I was in Aberdeen for the 50th Anniversay
of cmputing there, they were still working on refinements of the boundary layer
I don’t really remember what all happened that summer.
Eventually, we were told that the ENIAC would be moved to Aberdeen, and we wouldn’t be needed to work
on it so we could take a vacation. Having not taken a vacation for a number of
years, I had a lot of vacation time built up. I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s
sister Margaret McCahill, in San
Francisco and asked her if I could come to visit her.
She wrote back that she would be “delighted” for a visit from me. In those
days, nobody went anywhere by plane. One went by bus, train or automobile. I
don’t remember whether I mentioned my trip to Betty or John Holberton, but both
of them said they would like to go with me. John said that if he came with us,
he would supply the car. That was just great. All of us had 10 weeks of paid
vacation time, so we began to plan this grand trip. I wrote to my aunt Margaret
that I would soon be arriving with my 2 friends. Then, I also wrote to my
father’s sister, Ellen.McSweeney, in Los
Angeles, that I would soon be visiting her with my 2
So, in September, we took off on our trip across country.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike had been built and traveled across Pennsylvania
to end up on a dirt road in Ohio.
It was the only wide, paved, high speed turnpike in the country. John and I
took turns driving while Betty was the navigator, read the maps and planned our
route. We traveled across the cornfields
of Ohio and on to Chicago. There we visited with Nick
Metropolis and the Trukovitzes, John and Tony. We had dinner with them and they
took the next day off to show us Chicago.
We had never been there before and had a wonderful time with them.
One nice thing about traveling with John Holberton was that
his father had been an agent for the Agriculture Department, and John knew
every brand of cow, pig or horse and all the different crops, plants and trees.
He knew them in every state across the country. I had never heard of Poland
China pigs before. I never even knew that pigs were different. It was quite an
agricultural education. We went to Denver, then
to Boulder, and on to Salt Lake City, Utah.
We stayed in the national parks and in the little motels along the way.
Occasionally we would stay in a hotel for $3 per night per person. We could get
a huge steak dinner for $0.60.
We traveled across California
to my Aunt Margaret’s house in a suburb of San Francisco
.She was close to Stamford
University, and she took
us there. We went to see Dr. Lehmer at Berkeley
and went out to dinner with him and his wife.
Then, we went down to
Los Angeles to
visit the McSweenys, my father’s sister’s family there. They had a boatyard.
During the war, they built PT Boats, now they were building gorgeous yachts,
made out of solid mahogany. My father had not seen this sister since he was 14.
She was about 10 years older than he and had gotten married and gone to America. After I got there, she called my father and I
remember they were crying and talking and crying. She had 3 daughters: one was
married to a lawyer who became a Federal Judge, one was married to a man who
had founded the Boy’s Club of America and the other built the yachts. They all
lived nearby. They showed us a wonderful time, entertained us quite royally. We
went to Catalina Island, visited Mt. Palomar
where we saw them polishing the mirror on the telescope there. We went to UCLA
thinking to look up some professors who might be interested in the ENIAC.
One day, we went down to San Diego where Betty had a sister. From
there, we went down into Mexico
to see some of the sights along the border. From there, we took the famous
Route 66. It wasn’t much of a route at that time. Most of the roads were just
gravel roads. We drove across the Painted Desert and on to the Grand Canyon. From there, we went across country to New Orleans. I guess we
had left a general delivery address there for, when we got there, I had a
letter saying that my professional P-3 (Professional –3) rating had come through. That meant that I
would go to Aberdeen
for I had given that as a condition for going there with the ENIAC. We
celebrated this happy event in New
We then traveled across Florida
to Miami. We
visited with a friend of John Holberton’s in Florida. Then we headed back toward John’s
home in Virginia.
We arrived there on Thanksgiving. All in all, we were gone about 10 weeks. It
was a wonderful trip, and when we got back found out that our dear friends
Betty Jennings and Marlyn Wescoff were engaged and getting married. It turned out that only Fran. Betty, Ruth and
I were going to Aberdeen.
When we got to Aberdeen,
the ENIAC was just being delivered. Josh Gray and Dick Merwin were going to get
their masters’ degrees for reassembling it. I spent many cold, dreary days
testing it as they put it back together. I don’t remember it ever running any
problem all during the time I was there. I left in February, 1948. The 60-order
code, which made it a stored program computer, was not put on it while I was
there. In the meantime, I had been corresponding with Dr. Hartree. When he got
back to England,
he discovered a major mistake in his analysis of his problem. Thus, his results
were invalid. He wanted changes made to the program and rerun. I never got the
chance to rerun it.
When I was there, I worked in an office next to Dr.
Dederich’s. He had 7 or 8 mathematicians working on problems to be put on the
ENIAC, but, strangely, nobody seemed interested in knowing how the ENIAC
worked. Along about this time, George Reitweisner and some other people joined
the staff, including Homey McAllister whom he eventually married. Nobody seemed
to be doing anything with them, so I began teaching them. Sometime in the
summer of 1947, this manuel just mysteriously appeared on my desk. It was the
manuel that Adele Goldstine had written on the operation of the ENIAC. It was
very good but long, long overdue.
John Mauchly had a contract with some agency in Washington,
D. C. Sometimes he went down by train and sometimes he would drive down. When
he drove, he would stop in Aberdeen
to check on how the ENIAC was doing. Eventually, he began to stop to take me
out to dinner. Over the 4th of July weekend in 1947, he invited me
to go on a trip with him and his children, Sidney and Jimmy, down to the Luray
Caverns. Which I did. After that, we became an item.
The ACM had a meeting in Aberdeen. Kite Sharpless from Moore School
was there. His family had a home that straddled the Mason-Dixon
Line. I remember he had a big party there, and I can remember
seeing some of the stones that marked the Mason-Dixon. Line. John and I went to
that party, and I think it was there that we began telling people we were going
to get married. That was in November of 1947. That was quite a decision on my
part. I knew that my family would object terribly. The night that I had the
engagement party for Betty Jennings at our house, John Mauchly was there. He
was going to give Betty Jean away at her wedding. When my family asked who that
tall, thin man was, and I told them John Mauchly, my mother said, “Don’t ever
bring him around here again.”
John had so many problems. His wife’s tragic death occurred
in August of 1946. He had 2 children, plus his mother was living with him. He
also had a graduate student who was working on his doctorate and his wife
living with him. His mother didn’t like the couple. His children hated them
because they made them do their homework and other things on schedules, and, I
guess, generally ran the house differently than their mother had run it. John
was trying to get a new company started. I learned later that Jimmy had cut
school for 65 days by March of that school year. He was pretty desperate. The
wife of the graduate student was pregnant, and they intended to leave once the
baby was born. The wife did all the cooking. The baby was due in March. Also,
unknown to me, he had this dreadful bleeding disease, Hereditary Hemorrhagic
Because of these problems, we decided to get married rather
quickly, on February 7, 1948, which threw my mother into a frenzy. She was
horrified. She felt John was too old for me, being 14 years older. He had a
ready-made family while I should have one of my own. His wife had died under
bazaar circumstances. He was not a Catholic. He was not Irish. I had nice
acceptable Irish Catholic men who wanted to marry me. He was not good enough
for my mother. On the other hand, my father wrote me a letter saying, “You are
26 years old. You are old enough to make up your own mind about what you want
to do. It is your decision.”
When I got up on the morning of my wedding, my parents were
gone. In fact, I never saw them again until my first child was born. We were
married without them at the rectory of my Catholic Church. It was a simple
ceremony. My brothers and sisters were there. Pres Eckert was John’s Best Man
and my sister Anna was my Matron of Honor. John’s daughter Sidney who was 9 was
there and John’s first wife’s brother Edward and his wife. John’s mother didn’t
come because she didn’t feel well and her sister had just died. Jimmy who was
14 didn’t come either. But, friends came although no invitations had been sent
out. It was a rather quiet affair, and we went to New York on our honeymoon
We had a great time in New York going to many shows. Also we went
out to dinner at his sister Betty’s house one night, and one night to his
friend Henry Eisenbrandt’s house. An early ENIAC Navy student invited us to a
big dinner/dance at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. One night after a show, we stopped
at a bookstore. When we got back to the hotel room, John said, “I have a
present for you.” When I said, ”What is it?.” He said, “Here it is. It’s a
cookbook. You are our new cook.” At the time, I thought it was funny. I didn’t
know how to cook. I’d never cooked.
with John Mauchly
When we got back home to John’s house on St. Marks Street, it turned out that Bill
and Lois had the master bedroom and bath on the second floor. John had been
sleeping in the upstairs living room on a couch. In those houses, this back room was very
nice. That night when we got there, John’s mother met us on the stairway and
said, “You’ll find linens in the linen closet.” I’d never been upstairs in
their house. John said that we could make the couch into a double bed, but we
were practically sleeping on the floor. We made up the bed, and that is where
we slept until Bill and Lois moved after the baby was born on March .15.
The next morning, I was informed that I was the one who was
to fix breakfast. It was rather rough, cooking for a household of 7 people, but
somehow it didn’t seem to phase me. When I was out sweeping the porch on that
first morning, my next door neighbor brought me a gift to welcome me to the
neighborhood. Everybody knew we had been married because Walter Winchell, on
his Sunday Night broadcast, had announced that John Mauchly, the inventor of
the computer, had secretly married Kathleen McNulty. The neighbors across the
street also came over with gifts. The next year, when Sally was born, all the
neighbors came with gifts. It was wonderful. Those large but ordinary row
houses are quite expensive today. I saw in the paper the other week that one
had recently sold for $485,000.
I had my new cookbook, and Lois the housekeeper was very
helpful telling me what everybody liked to eat. John loved to entertain and he
invited anyone who came to town for dinner. We had a wonderful life together. I
was very busy getting the kitchen painted and organized. I turned an old back
stairs into storage for the kitchen. There was a big barrel in the kitchen.
When I asked what it was doing there, they said that it was Grandma Mauchly’s
She was going to ship it up to her daughter on Long Island.
When I asked how long it had been there, they said that it was since Grandma
came to live with them. How long was that? Three years.
The next year, Sally was born. We called her Sally because
it was a name that I liked. When I was in Jefferson Hospital
the day after Sally was born, my mother came to visit me with a complete
layette for the baby. This was the first time that I had seen her since I was
married. She and my father never invited us to their house and I didn’t invite
them to mine. I had a good relationship with my brothers and sisters, however.
I was surprised to see my mother and asked her how she happened to come to see
me. She said that when John had called the house to say that Sally was born, my
father’s first cousin Helen was there. Helen said to my mother, “I hope you are
going down to see that baby.” My mother said, “I don’t know.” Helen said to
her, “If you don\t go down to see that baby, you don’t deserve to ever see that
baby as long as you live” Apparently, my mother took it to heart and went out
to buy all this stuff for the baby and came to visit me.
We were now living on St. Marks Street, John and me. Grandma,
Sidney, Jimmy and the new baby. John didn’t change his ways very much. Every
time somebody new came around, he invited him/her/them to dinner. He might call
late in the afternoon that he was bringing 2 people home for dinner. Maybe a
new employee, somebody he was thinking of hiring, or a friend who was in
town. Now, they had a grand piano, which
was quite large. They kept it in the dining room, making it a music room. So,
the family always ate in the kitchen. He was always inviting people home for
dinner and would pull up a stool or something for them to sit on. I didn’t like
it so I hired some movers to move the piano into the living room, and then
turned the dining room back into a dining room. This worked out very well.
One night, John had invited several people for dinner. I
decided to make a roast of beef and apple pie. When John had given me the
cookbook, he had said that I could cook if I could read. I had read and did
know how to cook roast beef and apple pie. Unfortunately, I cooked them in the
oven at the same time with the apple pie sitting on the rack in the oven above
the roast beef. The juicy apple pie bubbled over onto the roast beef so the
gravy that night tasted like apple pie. One time, when Grace Hopper came to
dinner, I went out to the kitchen to get the dessert. When I came back, there
sat everyone with the dining room table on their laps. The Center legs had
separated and the table collapsed.
John always liked to have lots of people around. He was
especially fond of the Hartrees. He invited them to stay overnight with us. Our
house had 2 extra rooms on the third floor. One time, the Hartrees were there
and their son came down after visiting friends in Canada. The Hartree children had
spent the WW II years in Canada.
After I served her son bacon and eggs for breakfast, Mrs. Hartree said, “You
just served my son a month’s ration of bacon.” This was 1949 and England still
had strict rationing of food.
Grandma Mauchly had sold her house
and moved in with John. Mary Mauchly, John’s first wife always worked. So
Grandma Mauchly was incredibly lonely. Also, she had the same blood disease
that John had, HHT. When I married John and was at home all the time, Grandma
had some one to talk to so she told all kinds of family stories. Many of which
she had never told her children. I had a wonderful relationship with John’s
sister Betty, and, in later years, when I would tell her some of the family
stories, she would say, “Where did you hear that?” I would just say the Grandma
had told me. Betty is now 89 years old and is still teaching the piano. She can
hardly see, but she can hear. (She died in 2005.)
Grandma and I got along very well. The neighborhood began to
change, and a couple of neighbors were robbed. These were very tough times for
John trying to get a company going and trying to get in a position to have a
regular salary so he could support his family.
We decided to move and bought Little Linden Farm in Ambler
for $25,000. It had originally been on the market for $50,000, but it had been
on the market since WW II had ended. No one had bought it, and the owner was
getting anxious to sell. It included a 21-room house and 50 acres of land.
Although Mr. Eckert, Pres’s father, acted as our agent, the house was found for
us by my political science teacher from college, Dr. Rowland. He had gotten
interested in real estate. My father often bought and sold houses, and Dr.
Rowland told my father to have us look at this house in Ambler. We loved it.
The house had been built in 1701. It was definitely colonial. We bought Little
Linden Farm in February of 1950 and moved in May, the day before Memorial Day
after the children’s school year was over. The kids were able to enjoy this big
house and the 50 acres. It was absolute heaven.
Grandma Mauchly remarried. After Sally was born, she had
married her brother-in-law. The two of them bought a house jointly in Florida. They spent
winters in Florida
and summers with us at Little Linden Farm. It was a very full house. It had
come with a houseman, Stewart, who helped me keep this place going. John was
always busy and very absorbed in his work. Even at St. Marks street, we would sit in the
back living room where we had spent the first weeks of our marriage. I would
help the kids with their homework. John would come in and tell me about things
he was working on and ask me if I thought this or that would work. He would be
working on some codes and ways of addressing the computer one way or another.
As time passed, I began to pay all the bills and took over
the running of the household. John had so many things to do. There was so much
involved, starting a company, and John didn’t know anything about business. He
just was not money oriented, in any way...
The Security Nightmare
The worst thing that happened to John was the security
clearance problem. It started in 1949. That was when they were building the
Binac. When the notice of his denial of clearance came in, Mr. Straus was still
alive. He said that he knew Hoover
personally and he would get it cleared up. The company was not doing any work
that involved security devices, they were just building computers. Straus did
get it cleared up.
It was strange that
each time his security was questioned, it came from the Philadelphia Ordnance
Department. When I got John’s FBI file, it didn’t tell me where the information
came from. But, it always came from Philadelphia.
It was so persistent..
This file shows that John was a subscriber to Consumer
Reports which was declared communist oriented. Also, it shows him as a member
of the Association of Philadelphia
Scientists. John declared that he never joined such an organization The only thing he could figure out was that
he may have put his name on a list for literature at some time and they took
that as joining. He was also accused of hiring security risks, such as Bob
Bob was a brilliant
engineer and an albino with very limited eyesight. Bob owned a car. He could
not see well enough to drive so he had various friends chauffeur him around.
One time, one of his friends asked to borrow the car to drive to Washington, D.
C. The friend drove it to Washington
on a weekend when there was a parade that was considered pinko-oriented. Bob’s
car was parked on the street while the chauffeur visited a friend. The police
went along the street writing down license plate numbers. They traced the car
to Bob. Bob wasn’t even there. Bob was also cited as getting various
John’s file also tells the story that when the Northtrop
people came to consult with Eckert-Mauchly while the Binac was being built,
they felt that their hotel room had been searched one evening while they went
out to dinner. They felt that it had to be someone from Eckert-Mauchly because
nobody else would know they were there. Why this has anything to do with John’s
clearance is hard to understand.
It is hard to believe that such garbage was taken
seriously. But it was and was devastating to John. It took so much of his time.
And, he couldn’t get a handle on it. He couldn’t figure out how to counter it.
At this time, he was working on a program generating language with Anatole Holt
and Bill Turanski . It was prior to the Fortran language developed by IBM.
Because of the clearance
situation, John was not allowed in the company building. and Remington Rand put
him in one of their offices downtown. He couldn’t really do work for the
company so he worked on meteorlogical problems and calculations like the work
he had done much earlier, forcasting the weather. John was devastated by the
whole security clearance debacle. When the election publicity with CBS was
proposed, John worked on it for about a year with Dr. Woodbury, who spent a lot
of time at our house. John collected data on past elections in various states
to develop the methodology for doing the prediction of the election. Of course,
John couldn’t be there on the night of the election because he wasn’t allowed
in the building.
John’s security clearance
problems were not cleared up until about 1954. Then, he was allowed back in the
building and he began to work with Taransky and Holt again.
Life Goes On
In the meantime, life with
John was just wonderful. He liked to work at night and sleep during the day. He
would get home about the time the children went off to school, eat a good
breakfast, then go to bed. He got up for dinner, then go off to work. He always
liked to have company for dinner. When my kids were in college, they always
brought lots of their friends home for the weekend. The house was so large
there was always room for whoever arrived. Also, by this time using my cookbook
and knowing from experience that I always had to cook “elastic” meals that
could serve any number of people, I could handle almost anything. We loved
Little Linden Farm and our life there. People loved to talk to John. In fact, a
number of our children’s friends have told me how much they enjoyed coming to our
house and talking to John Mauchly. One of Gini’s friends went to work for
Microsoft writing manuals. He wrote me how much fun he had talking to John and
he dedicated one of the manuals to him.
We had 5 children. Sally who was the oldest, was born in 1949.
All of our children went to Parochial School here in Ambler, then they went to
Mount St. Joe’s Academy in Flourtown, which is about 7 miles from Ambler. All
did well in school. Sally was a bright little girl. She skipped one or two
grades. When she went to Chestnut
she majored in math. Then, she went on to Temple
University in Philadelphia and got her masters degree in
math education. So, she is a math teacher and now teaches in one of the big
high schools in Philadelphia.
She married a few days after graduating from college in 1970 to a man who was
also a math major. He went on to become a doctor, an obstetrician who
specializes in high risk pregnancies.
They have 3 children, 2 girls and a boy.
My next daughter is
Kathy who was born in 1951. She majored
in biology and got her degree from Chestnut
, then she got her master’s degree from Temple
with a major in biochemistry. She works for Merck Sharp and Dome doing initial
research on drugs before they go into the testing phase. She has 2 adopted sons and a son and daughter
of her own. After John died, and I married again, she and her husband bought
Little Linden Farm where they now live.
My next child is a son,
Bill, who was born in 1953. He was born on my birthday. He was a math major at Temple. But, before he
went to college, he spent 8 years traveling around the country with a band that
he had. He gave concerts and tutorials at various colleges in different states.
After college, he decided that he liked electrical engineering better than
anything else, so he joined a company that made equipment to make electronic
measurements of the brain. He worked there for a number of years. In the
meantime, he developed a piano synthesizer. He and a group formed a company to
make the synthesizers. The company did very well, and the synthesizers were
sold all around the world. He finally sold it to a Japanese company. He formed
a new company to build receivers that capture signals from satellites. He has
about ten people working for him. He is made in his father’s and my father’s
image, a wonderful combination. All my daughters adore him. He is always able to say just the right thing
and do the right thing. He has a quirky sense of humor.
My next daughter is Gini,
born in March, 1954. She went to Temple
University and majored in
languages. She learns them easily. She speaks French, Italian and German
fluently. She is the only one of my children who graduated from college Summa
Cum Laude. After college, she went to Germany for a year. Her husband is
a fundraiser and vice president of York
College in Pennsylvania. Ginil has a company that does
fund raising for various organizations.
My youngest daughter Eva
was born in 1958. She has always had this tremendous voice and is a really good
singer. All of my children are quite musical. It doesn’t come from the
McNultys. Must come from the Mauchlys. Eva went to Johns Hopkins, affiliated
with the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore. She didn’t
finish there but, eventually, came back and got her degree in music from Chestnut Hill College.
She has starred in many musicals, such as, playing “Marion, Marion, the
librarian” in Music Man.
She gives voice lessons. She is
also working on a Ph.D. She has 5 children.
Through all the years when
my children were growing up, I was active in the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts .I
started a Girls Scout Troup for my four daughters and stayed a leader for 14
years. For my son, I was a Den Mother of the Boy Scouts for 3 years and on the
Boy Scout Committee for many years..
When I married John, my
stepson Jimmy was 14, and my stepdaughter Sidney was 9. I have always gotten
along with them very well. Jimmy was a teenage Hellion, but a lovable one. Sidney was never a
problem, always lovable and happy. Both have become Catholics. Sidney has 7 children and Jimmy has 5. All of
their children consider me their grandmother. Jimmy opened and ran a large
hardware store in New Hampshire.
He has now sold it, but he still works with the new owners.
All of my children including
Jimmy and Sidney love each other and get along very well. Over the years John
usually discussed his ideas with me and asked me what I thought of them. Once
he began forming his own companies, I would be the treasurer. So I generally
knew what was going on with them.
John had a horrible blood
disease, Hereditary Hemorrhagic Talangiectasia (HHT). I did not know about it
when I married him. I knew that he suffered from anemia and had to go to the
hospital periodically to have blood transfusions. In fact, not much was known
about the disorder until Yale began studying it in the last 50 years. The
disease is hereditary. It is a dominant gene.characteristic disease. That means
that if one does not have the disorder, that person cannot carry the disorder
to the next generation. If one is a carrier, it may or may not be carried to
the next generation. John’s mother had HHT. John had it. His sister did not.
John’s first 2 children Jimmy and Sidney do not have it. My daughter Sally does
not have it, but all my other children do have it. No one really knows why some
descendents have it and some do not. It is one of the tragedies of our lives.
It is hemorrhagic because it is characterized by nosebleeds and internal
bleeding of the capillaries. Sometimes, there are also tumors formed in the
brain, also holes in the lungs. Yale University
Hospital has developed
operations to sew up the holes in the lungs and to zap the tumors in the brain
if they occur. Several of my children and grandchildren have gone to Yale for
operations. It is called talangiectasia
because it is characterized by dilation of
the capillaries and the arterioles (twig of an artery that ends up as a
capillary) that often form a tumor made up of blood or lymph vessels.
My daughter Eva has studied
the disorder and is determined to find its cause. She has traced the family
back for 200 years. They were known as bleeders because of the nosebleeds. They
usually died in their teens. Although its results are quite devastating, it
appears to have no effects on intelligence or creativity. She has suggested
that the reason John’s 3 oldest children are HHT-free is because John was
younger when they were conceived. That does not hold for my grandchildren who
have it. Hopefully, someday it will be understood and cured.
There is a national
organization for HHT, and it met in Baltimore
recently. My daughters Kathy, Gini and Eva went. Some doctors got up to say it
needn’t be diagnosed until children were in their teens. Gini got up and said,
“This is absolutely false. It should be diagnosed at least by the time the
children are 8. The earlier it is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated.”
Afterward, doctors and parents asked her to join them and to continue to speak
out for them because nobody was listening to them saying the same things.
John stayed with Remington
Rand for 10 years after they bought Eckert-Mauchly. He had a 10-years contract.
After it was over, he had had it with their management. He felt that he was
getting nowhere. Also, one of his promising boys, William Turanski, was killed
by an automobile in Philadelphia.
As he was walking down the street, an automobile ran up on the sidewalk and hit
him. He died from the accident. John had
been in Colorado
and just come home. In the meantime, his mother had been ill and had gotten
pneumonia. She was in the hospital and died on January 16, 1960. That was the
same day that John got the call saying that Bill had died. Two great shocks for
John, on the same day.
After Univac, John formed a
company called Mauchly Associates. He had worked out a plan to use computers to
manage large construction jobs. The computer program was used to plan the whole
job so that materials and labor could be ordered and placed onsite just when
needed. It took into account lead times as well as construction times. The
technique was called Construction Project Management (CPM). He hired people to
teach the method. As soon as it was set up, IBM sent a group to their classes
and right away IBM set up the group to compete with Mauchly Associates. They
planned construction of schools, hotels, bridges and other large projects.
I remember that I went to Algeria with
John for a job. Algeria had
just gotten its independence from France and wanted to build its own
oil refineries. His company had the job of planning the building of them. They
also wanted to build hospitals and other things.
The company did very well,
but what happened was that as soon as people came and worked for John for a
while, they went out and formed their own companies. They sprang up all over.
So competition became pretty fierce.
Sometime in the 1970s, John
formed a company with Brad Shepherd called Dynatrend. Brad had been an EDVAC
and Binac engineer working on the mercury delay-line storage unit for the
computer memory. He had to leave Eckert-Mauchly because his father-in-law had
died leaving no one else to run his wife’s family business, the Struik Trucking
Line. Brad ran it for several years until it was sold to Fruehof. Then, he got
back to computers. Dynatrend’s business was to forecast the performance of the
stock market. It was never successful.
Also, about that time, John
began to develop adult diabetes and continued to have nosebleeds. He went back
to Univac as a consultant for a short while.
The ENIAC Patent Trial was
in 1973. John was asked to testify for several days. We stayed at the same hotel as the Minnesota
Vikings. I remember they ate platter-size steaks for breakfast. John had just gotten
out of the hospital and was suffering massive nosebleeds every morning, and he
was in very bad shape. The Honeywell Lawyers had their own agenda to punish
Univac and John was the victim. Plus, the Univac lawyers never called anyone
from Ursinus to testify. People who knew that John had been working for years
on computer components long before he met Adanasoff were never asked to
testify. How could it be that they were so incompetent? It was shameful, and
John was just beaten down and exhausted.
John had been interested in
computers even as a child when he did calculations for his father, S. J.
Mauchly, who was a physicist and chief of the Terrestrial Electricity and
Maagnetism at Carnegie Institution in Washington, D C. His father developed the
methods and instruments for measuring the electrical field strength of the
atmoshere over the ocean and land. John did the calculations on a “Millionaire”
calculator, which multiplied directly by collecting the units and tens digits
of the partial products. Actually this was the way multiplication was done on
the ENIAC, which looked up the partial products in a function table. This work
ignited John’s lifelong interest in weather data and computation. When he was
at John Hopkins University
he worked on measurements and computation at the wind tunnel of the National
Bureau of Standards. After getting his Ph.D.in Physics in 1933, he became a
Professor of Physics at Ursinus College in Collegeville,
Pennsylvania where he stayed
until June of 1941.
Scientists at that time
knew that the solar activity of the sun affected the earth’s meteorological
data, i.e. the weather. He used some of his physics students to help collect
weather maps and other data from the Carnegie Institution where he had worked,
and also from the U. S. Weather Bureau in Washington. He was able to pay about 12
students through the U.S. Government National Youth Administration (NYA) to
reduce the data using desk calculators, Marchants and one Monroe. With the vast
amount of data, it was a slow process. He noted that most of the time was spent
entering data into the calculator and most of the errors were made there,
transcribing the numbers incorrectly. His first objective was to find a way to
store numbers so they were entered into the calculator only once. He first
thought of a storage device on the calculator.
Shortly thereafter, he came
down to breakfast and said, “This egg is dancing on my plate.” At the hospital,
it was believed that an infectious matter from the carotid artery had gotten up
to his brain. He was unconscious for some time. Then, he was in the hospital
for about a month. When I got him home, I found that he had 4 intervenous entry
tubes still in his arms. When I called the doctor to ask what to do, he said,
“Take them out.” “How do I do that?” “Just take them out.” And so I did. This
was in 1974.
We moved our bed downstairs
to a playroom that had a full bath attached. He couldn’t walk up and down
stairs. Every day for a year, I got him up, gave him a shower, shaved him and
helped him dress. Every day, he had nosebleeds. He finally was able to walk
down the driveway. He improved enough so we could move him back upstairs.
Although John was not a
good business man, he and I did make one very fine investment. That was Little
Linden Farm. As Ambler and the Philadelphia
suburbs were built up, our 50 acres became very valuable. We sold off some of
the land and gave some to Ambler for parkland and still had 8 acres surrounding
John was very bitter about
the overturn of the ENIAC patent. Also Univac and IBM signed an interlicensing agreement whereby
IBM would pay Univac $10,000,000 for the agreement. Pres and John’s agreement
ran for 9 Years. Univac arranged for the payout to be over a 10-year period. It
overlapped Pres and John’s agreement by only one year. Before he died, John was
in the habit of calling Joe Chapline late at night and talking for up to 2
hours. Joe tells the story that one night John said that his life reminded him
of Matthew 13,12 in which Jesus said, “For whomever hath, to him shall be
given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath
not, from him shall be taken even that he hath.” . That sort of sums up
how he felt about the events surrounding his career in computers.
In 1979, all the kids had
come down for the Christmas holidays. Jimmy and his wife and 5 kids. Jimmy’s
oldest daughter had just gotten engaged so her fiancé was there. Sidney and her
husband and 7 kids were there. John’s sister was up from Florida. All were staying at our house. It
was quite a crowd. John was in pretty good shape and able to talk to everybody.
I went in the bathroom one morning of the holiday and there was John with his
nose bleeding so badly that he couldn’t get it stopped. Anyway, I took him to Chestnut Hill Hospital.
.They stopped up his nose and bandaged it. That day we assembled everyone and
took pictures of the whole family, with John and his bandaged nose. (picture)
Finally everyone left.
A few days later, when I
brought up John’s lunch, he said he was very cold. My son Bill and I hugged him
trying to keep him warm. I called the doctor who ordered an ambulance. As I
went to the hospital with John, he began gasping for breath, I told the
attendant to put on the oxygon mask. She said, “I don’t know how.” I put it on
When we reached the
hospital, they no more than got him on his bed when he was surrounded by about
6 doctors. When I asked what was going on, they said that these doctors had
never seen a case of HHT before so they had brought them in to see one. HHT
causes the capillaries under the skin to leak.
Finally, they came and said
they were going to operate on him because they believed the aorta was leaking.
We went to the operating theater to watch. After a while, they stopped. A
doctor came out and said everything was fine. They had stopped to wait for some
more oxygon. Later a doctor came out and said they had started the operation
again. After about half an hour, a doctor came out to say that John had died.
The aorta wasn’t leaking, all the capillaries in his body had finally
completely relaxed and weren’t carrying any blood any more.
When I went in to see him a
short while later, I looked at him lying there, and I was happy. It had been so
long since I had seen him when his nose wasn’t bleeding and he wasn’t gasping
for breath. It was a joy to see him just peacefully lying there and out of his
misery. The dear man was gone, but he was 72 years old. Many times he had told
me that he had already lived longer than he ever expected to live because of
his disease. That was January 8, 1980.
After John Mauchly
After John died, I was
often asked to speak as John’s widow for various occasions. I discovered that
my time would be up and I hadn’t finished my story. My planning on time was
terrible. I knew what not to do when giving a speech. So, I decided to do something to learn how to
give a talk. I joined the Toastmasters
Club. Shirley Lukoff(ref) joined with me. I began to plan and give small
speeches, and I began to win first prizes when we had little contests. Often
people would ask for a speaker from the Toastmasters Club. One time, I spoke at
the Chamber of Commerce in Ambler. At the end of the year, I was told that I
had been voted their favorite speaker of the year. I learned how to construct a
talk and began speaking at various functions. Univac hired me to be their
representative at various national sales meetings and other places. I gave the
keynote address at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the
ENIAC, when we met Kathryn Klieman. I always spoke as John’s widow, not as
MIT had gotten a grant from the Sloan Foundation to make an
oral history of the origins of the Computer. In 1982, Pres and I were invited
to Boston to be
part of this project. First of all, I was annoyed because Pres refused to go.
The people at the conference were very congenial I think the idea was to get the people
together in groups of interest and have them reminisce about what they and others
had done. I was in the ENIAC Group with Herman Goldstine, Grist Brainard,
Richard Clippinger, Harry Husky and Jan Raychman. (picture)All went very well
until Dr. Goldstine brought up the “stored program” concept and how it had
developed in a 2-week period late in August and early September of 1944. I was
surprised at his attitude during the following confrontation although he
behaved in the same cold manner as he always had behaved. His attitude was that
he was always right.
John and Pres had
written of the stored program in a report to Aberdeen in December of 1943. Then Pres had
written an article, that was really meant to be used for a patent application,
for a stored program computer in January, 1944. (Exhibit) John had signed the
article. Goldstine just treated this document as if it didn’t exist, and that
he and I were just voicing our opinions. Brainard supported me about the
December report. Goldstine ignored him. Husky said that when he came in July of
1944, Pres told him of a computer with a stored program. Goldstine ignored him
. He continued to say, “Kay, you and I will always disagree.” I realized that
it didn’t matter what I said, what documents I had, what anybody else said,
Goldstine was going to continue treating it as if this were just an argument
between the two of us.
John wrote a letter to the editor of Datamation magazine in
response to an article in the May 1979 issue.The magazine ran it as an article
in the October issue. In this article, John
tells of von Neumann and the EDVAC. As the work progressed on the ENIAC,
he and Pres realized that many things would be different in the next machine.
It would have more memory and have stored programs. The work progressed in
their spare moments when not working on the ENIAC, late at night and at other
times. In fact, they were having meetings with the ENIAC engineers planning its
design. When von Neumann visited the ENIAC project in September, 1944, Pres
Eckert was skeptical of Aberdeen’s
so-called expert, von Neumann. Pres said that if he asked one particular
question then Pres would know if von Neumann really knew anything. He did ask
the question when he saw the 2-accumulator demonstration. The question was,
“How do you control it?” After that, Pres felt free to share their information with
When he learned that Pres and John were having meetings on
the ENIAC’s successor machine, the EDVAC, von Neumann asked if he could attend
the meetings. They agreed that he could. As John said, “Of course, von Neumann
learned what they were doing very quickly.” But, he began using his own
terminology for what they were doing. In fact, the EDVAC Report restated their
design in von Neumann words for teaching or for communications purposes. In
fact, when Pres and John read it, they thought it was notes on their meetings
for discussion purposes. Goldstine, ignoring Reid Warren’s permission for
”internal distribution only” went ahead and basically published it by
distributing it throughout the government and university communities.
In my confrontation with Goldstine as taped by the MIT
Project, Goldstine said that von Neumann was very generous in giving credit to
others even “if they were only in the room when he wrote,” and he was sure that
von Newmann would have added notation if he had been the one distributing it.
But, it was Goldstine who had distributed it and he had not made any such
notations. That is a pretty thin argument, considering how important the
document was to the history of computing and to Pres and John. Here, von
Neumann was taking full credit for something he had not done. Von Neumann was
no Ozark hill-billy. He was a world-renowned mathematician. He had access to
all sorts of publications where he could have corrected the story. He chose not
to do so. Thus, he wanted his unearned credit.
Let us now enumerate the ways von Neumann fouled their
lives. His writing of the EDVAC Report. That report made a patent on the EDVAC
impossible because it was publicly disclosed more than one year before the
patent was allied for. Plus, von Neumann and Goldstine preceded Pres and John
in applying for a patent. That certainly proved he was claiming credit for its
invention. His influence in having the Los Alamos
problem put on the ENIAC in the fall and winter of 1945 caused all sorts of trouble
with the ENIAC Patent. It was argued that this secret program was “Public Use”
and happened more than one year before
the patent was applied for. Although the Patent Office issued the Patent, it
was gratuitously overturned by Judge Larson in the Honeywell challenge to the
Patent. He ruled that the patent was invalid due to “Public Use” more than a
year before the patent was applied for. Yes, indeed, the curse of von Neumann
lived on long after he died. They certainly did not need him to help them develop
computers. They went on to build Binac, Univac amd Larc. These machines had far
more influence on the course of computer history than the Johnniac, er ah the
Now John admired von Neumann. Esther Carr, a friend of
John’s, made 18 hours of video tapes of
John reviewing his life. These tapes were made in 1977. One question she asked
him was who at the Moore
School he had most
First, he mentioned Dean Pender who had also gotten his Ph D
at Johns Hopkins and had worked with Rolland its founder. John had also taken
over some of Pender’s classes and they had worked together on others. Also,
Pender had been a founder of IRC (International Resister Company), a very
successful company that had made Pender quite wealthy.
Second, he mentioned von Neumann, whom John considered a
genius and very impressive. He did deserve many honors and was a great man.
But, John went on to say that von Neumann took every honor offered him, never
disclaimed anything, never saying that he didn’t deserve the honor because it
wasn’t his to receive. He said that von Neumann was a great storyteller. Then
John went on to say that von Neumann became a great salesman promoting the use
of computers, giving many speeches about computers as though he had indeed been
the EDVAC inventor. John attended some of them and would sit on the front row.
Von Neumann never once acknowledged him.
The third person he admired at the Moore
School was Dr. Carl Chambers, whom
John described as an ex-football player, who went on to get his Ph D and become
Director of Research at IRC and a Professor at the Moore School.
He encouraged John and told him he could make as much money as Chambers made.
The other person that John said he admired was Ronald A.
Fisher, an agricultural statistician who led him to a book by Mills. This book
was keyed to the work of Pierson who turned John on to the use of statistics to
determine if a theory was true. John
felt this was a turning point in his thinking. He then joined the Institute of Math Statistics and from then on
statistics became an important tool in his problem solving.
In his career, the most admired and dominant person was Pres
Eckert. As John described him, he was the one who was responsive to his ideas,
not with skepticism but with the positive response that it could be done with
care. He was the most influential person in the history of computer devices.
Pres was the one who insisted that all the engineering work be done with
extreme care to ensure reliability. He was the one who insisted the vacuum
tubes used in the ENIAC be ordinary tubes made in great quantities by the
manufacturer so he could do reliability and life tests on many tubes. He was
the one who insisted that all the circuits were designed to rigid standard with
components used to 50% to 55 % of capacity so that if a unit didn’t perform
quite up to par the computer still worked. He was the one who insisted the
ENIAC not be turned off because the surge in current when first turned on
caused tubes to fail. It is his meticulous emphasis on life tests and
reliability that convinced other engineers that he was the greatest engineer of
the 20th Century.
John says many interesting things in these tapes. When asked
if he had anticipated the speed of developments in the computer industry. He
said that he had. He just wondered why it took so long. He said that someone
had said that it took 5 years to build a computer from its inception to its
completion. He remarked that it had taken just that for the development of the
Univac. He did say that he never, never anticipated the miniaturization of the
computers. That was a total surprise and a profound development. This was 1977
and he held in his hand a Texas Instruments hand calculator, which John pointed
out contained more computing power than the ENIAC and almost as much as the
Univac. He was delighted with it. In fact, I remember that John had someone at
Texas Instruments on the phone almost every day asking questions of why they
did this or that.
When asked about his greatest accomplishments, he did
mention the Univac, but surprisedly, to me anyway, he felt the development of
magnetic tape as a mass storage device was a major breakthrough for commercial
processing almost as great as the Univac itself. Up to this time, the tapes were
either paper tapes or acetate tapes. These were much too slow. They wanted to
use metal tape because it was strong and reliable. The tape needed to run at
speeds up to 10 feet/second to match computing speeds.
Ted Bonn was given
the job of figuring out a coating for the metal tape to provide for reliable
reading and writing at high speeds. Frazier Welch was given the job of
providing the mechanical means for moving and handling the tape. According to
Ted, metal alloy on metal tape was not good enough. Ted had fashioned a loop of
metal alloy tape with the 2 ends soldered together. John was looking over Ted’s
shoulder as he was testing the tape. There was no electrical output until the
tester came to the soldered joint, but John noticed it gave an electrical
output there. This gave Ted the idea of electroplating the tape instead of
heating because heat treatment as done with the solder weakened the base metal.
Eventually, Ted developed a coating made up of nickel, cobalt and phosphorous.
The same plating was used on the Larc drum and on the Fastrand drum used on the
Solid State 90.
To make the magnetic tape fast enough to keep up with the
Univac, it was written on the tape in blocks of 60 words each. A word consisted
of 12 alphanumeric characters. Each alphanumeric character consisted of 7 bits.
Two bits were the zone bits. Four bits defined the character within the zone.
One bit was the parity bit, which assured that the character had an odd number
of bits in it. If a character already had an odd number of bits in it the
parity bit was zero. If the character had an even number of bits in it or no
bits in it, the parity bit was a one. This was the main odd/even checking
system in the Univac although all circuits that did not get checked by the
odd/even check were duplicated and their output checked.
The reason John felt the magnetic tape was crucial for a
commercial computer because of the need for a mass storage device that could
provide permanent records. It could be changed and it could be handled. The Census
Bureau bought the first Univac. It did the census every 10 years. They
collected a tremendous amount of data on each resident of the United State:
age, race, sex, marital status, address, employment, education, national
origin, and family relationships. This data was used to determine public policy
in many instances by the federal government as well as state and local
governments. It was used by researchers in many different fields. The data was
stored and sorted over and over again using different criteria.
In fact, the Census Bureau had spurred the development of
punched cards in the early 1900s. Prior to Univac, punched cards were their
storage device. In order to compare past data with current data, Univac had a
punched card to magnetic tape converter.
In talking of the importance of computers, he stated that he
felt that perhaps their greatest achievement might well be their skill in
information retrieval. This was 1977 long before Google. He would have loved
using the wonders of Google. He pointed out that sciences were becoming so
complicated that keeping track of things was humanly impossible. Computers were
needed for that. He also mentioned CAT (Computer Aided Technology) scans in
medicine where doctors could see 3-dimensional pictures from getting very tiny
When asked what is important now, John replied that what is
important is, “What is next.”
I Move On
The house at Little Linden Farm was huge and far too big for
me to live in alone. My daughter Kathy, who had adopted 2 little boys, said
that she would move in and live with me for a year. If she and her husband felt
they could manage it they would buy it from me. Living with them that year, I
found that I had no privacy.
There was a carriage house on the Farm and I thought about
converting it into a place for me to live. One of my friends told me about a
man who had converted a carriage house on a farm in Ambler to a residence. He
asked me if I would like to see it. I said, “Sure.” He made an appointment, and
we went out to lunch with the man, then on to see his house. It was a beautiful
house with a central spiral staircase, large hall, living room, dining room and
kitchen. It had been designed by a student of Frank Loyd Wright. The farm had
belonged to his wife’s family, and they had rebuilt the carriage house on an
acre of ground. As soon as I walked in, I said there was no need to show me
anymore because this was much more elaborate than what I had in mind. We left.
The man who owned it was Severo Antonelli. The
next week, Severo called and asked me out to lunch. He was a photographer and
had three photography schools in the Philadelphia
area. He was also quite a famous photographer. He had been into a style called
“Futurism,” which had started in Italy in about 1910. There was going to be an exhibit of his work
in New York
and he asked me to go to it with him. I accepted and he hired a limousine to
take us to New York
to the exhibit.
That fall, he went off to Florida to a condo he
owned down there. He went with his brother and sister-in-law. At Christmas
time, he sent me a huge bouquet of flowers and again at Easter. Kathy
questioned me but I said they were from someone I hardly knew. When he returned
to Ambler in the spring, I. met some of his
friends. He was very social and belonged to numerous organizations and Italian
societies. He and his wife never had
children, and she had died several years earlier. By this time, John had been
dead for about 5 years.
After he came back from Florida, Severo began to
take me out to lunch. He belonged to a group called the America Italy Society,
which had been formed to update and restore deteriorating artworks in Venice. Each year, they
raised money for this project. That year, they were sponsoring a trip to Northern Italy. It was expensive, and I had been to Italy a couple
of times with John. But, I had never been to Italy with anyone who spoke
Italian. Severo was Italian and spoke Italian fluently. I decided it was too
good an opportunity to miss. It was a
2-week tour. I decided .to go. There were about 40 people on the tour. All were
associated with the arts in Philadelphia, such
as the Philadelphia Opera, the Orchestra, the
Fine Arts. It was a
magnificent trip. We had a wonderful time.
We stayed in a grand hotel in Bologna. They had a Mercedes Bus with an
Italian guide, actually a countess. In every town we visited, the mayor would
invite us to lunch. Each town had its own special pasta, but not a tomato did
we see in Northern Italy. We had tours of an
automobile factory, a procutto factory where they hang the hams to cure,
different vineyards, plus all the art galleries, and the Stradivarius museum,
We also went to an opera.
At the end of the 2 weeks,
Severo asked if I would like to go down to see his hometown. I said that we
were scheduled to go home the next Tuesday. Severo said he would make new
reservations if I would go with him. Which I did. His little town was about 20
miles from the town of Pescara towards the
middle of Italy, on the Aegean Sea side. That is a city of about 1,000,000
people. His little town is called by its old Latin name, Faeo Filiorum Petri,
which means the Association of the Sons of Peter. It is a walled town high up
in the mountain. This was in October when we were there, and it was absolutely
beautiful. There was the house where Severo had lived until the age of 13 when
he came to America.
His grandfather had been a guard of the town. His father was a cabinetmaker. He
came to the United States
and eventually became the head cabinetmaker at RCA in Camden. In 1920, when his father had made
enough money to buy a house and support his family, he had sent for his wife
and 3 sons.
After Severo came to the United States,
he became a photographer, a very good one. He had gone back to Italy when he was 22 to photograph the
triumvirate ruling Italy.
It included Mussolini. Severo’s picture of Mussolini appeared on the front page
of Time Magazine. This would have been in 1931 or 1932. Severo went on to
photograph many celebrities in Philadelphia and
actors and actresses traveling through Philadelphia.
He photographed Leopold Stokowski who was then conductor of the Philadelphia
We visited his relatives,
and they were all gracious and wonderful to us and to me. He also had a friend
there from Phildelphia, who had come to Italy and married a doctor. He had
a hospital there, and it had been one of the first hospitals in Italy to do
MRIs. People came there from all over Italy for
treatment. They were quite wealthy and had 4 cars in their garage. One day,
Severo told me that his cousin, Mira, had said to him in Italian. “Don’t let
her get away.” Then he asked me if I would consider marrying him. I said that I
would. I was so delighted with everything. We called home to tell his brother
that we were getting married.
After we got back, I began
to plan my wedding. In November, I decided to stage a reunion of the ENIAC
crew. Severo belonged to the Union League. In fact, he had joined at the same
time as Leopold Stokowski joined. A new hotel called the Four Seasons was
opening in Philadelphia
on the Parkway. Severo had met the new manager at the Union League so he asked
him if he could give me some special rates for my reunion. The manager could and
did. We had wonderful rooms and facilities for very modest prices. All of the
ENIAC crew attended, John and Betty Holberton, Homer and Fran Spence, Marlyn
and Phil Wescoff, Ruth and Adolph Teitlebaum, Betty Jean Bartik and me.
(picture.) What a grand time we had catching up and reminiscing. We spent the
weekend there. It also gave me a chance to introduce everyone to Severo.
We were married on December 27, 1985. I left Little Linden
Farm and I moved into Severo’s house with nothing but my suitcase and my Waterford glassware. John
had given me a cookbook on my honeymoon. Severo arranged for his sister-in-law
to come to our house during our first month of marriage to teach me how to cook
An interesting thing
happened 10 years later when Severo had died at the nursing home close to my
house on December 14, 1995. I waited for the undertaker to come to take him to
the funeral home. When he arrived, he told me, “I remember when you got
married.” He explained that when I
called the Monsignor to tell him that I wanted to get married, he was there at
the rectory. The Monsignor was out so another priest answered the phone. When
he hung up, he said, “Oh, somebody wants a quicky marriage.” When asked who it was, he answered, “Mrs.
Mauchly.” This young man knew me and he thought it was funny that a 65 year old
woman would want a quicky marriage. I had called at the end of October and
wanted to get married in December. The Catholic Church normally required a
6-month cooling off period except for the quickies.
After Severo and I were
married, he would go with me when Univac sent me to various places to speak. He
went to Texas and California. One time he suggested that the
Union League invite me to give a talk about the ENIAC. They did invite me and I
did speak. At the end of the year they voted my speech the most interesting one
of the year. This was before they had women members. It isn’t that I’m such a
great speaker. It’s that the subject is so interesting.
My life with Severo was different from anything
I had experienced before. He was very social and we went to many social
functions. We went to Italy
every year. We went to Florida
every winter. He was interested in the fine arts as were his friends. He had
great taste. He had all his clothes made in Italy. He went with me to pick out
my clothes. I had beautiful clothes.
He loved my children, but
he came first in my life. In fact, before we were married, he asked me if I
could place him first in my life and I did. He was a wonderful man, and I was
always glad that I had married him. He died of Parkinson’s Disease, which is a
cruel disease. The last 2 years of his life were sad, but he lived a long full
life. We had 10 years together. He donated a room in the Woodmere Gallery in
Chestnut Hill. His first wife was a beautiful model and lots of his pictures
are of her. The Woodmere
has an exhibit of his photos every 2 or 3 years.
Life As a Celebrity
All the years I gave talks
about the ENIAC, I always talked about it as John’s story, not my story.
Although I mentioned that I had been an ENIAC Programmer, it was just in
passing. I told of John’s part in the development of ENIAC, about Binac and
Univac, and his companies. I wrote a monthly article about John Mauchly for a
little bulletin for some computer club. A member of that club arranged for Jean
Bartik, Kathe Jacoby and me to speak at Princeton
about our experiences. I think that was the first time that I spoke for
In 1984, I wrote an article
for the Annals of the History of Computing on John Mauchly’s Early Years.(ref)
It was written in response to an article by Arthur and Alice Burks about how
John had gotten the idea for ENIAC from Dr. John Atanasoff. My article pointed
out that John had been interested in computing since he was a young man and had
been working on devices to help him reduce weather data for years before he
ever met Atanasoff. John had made an early attempt to make a flip-flop counter
using neon tubes. He had envisioned decade counters that were controlled by
electronic switches to transfer date from one counter to another. He had
designed and demonstrated a cipher machine that was digital, used flip-flops
and had a function table, all elements used in the ENIAC. He built a biquinary
counter, a pulse former to ensure the reliability of the counter. In 1939-1940,
he built an Harmonic Analyzer. He built a voltage regulator for his analyzer
again to ensure reliability. He understood very well the care needed to ensure
that his computer didn’t drop a pulse. In fact, John had a reputation for
constantly talking about computers. The president of Ursinus College
was quoted in John’s FBI Security file as complaining about John’s lectures and
his only thinking about computers.
Despite the Ursinus
President’s disdain, John’s Christmas lecture, which included a skit on how to
determine what is in a Christmas package without ever opening it, was so
popular other professors dismissed their students to hear it. He used the laws
of Physics to give him the clues to its contents. He measured it. He weighed
it. He submerged it in water. He poked it with a long needle. The night before
the last day before Christmas break, the students generally stayed up all night
partying. The professors couldn’t dismiss the students. On the other hand, the
students were too wasted to concentrate on anything. But, the professors could
dismiss them to go to John’s lecture. It was so well attended if was generally
held in the auditorium. Some of the professors were actually sitting in the
John’s lectures on Newton’s Laws of Motion were also well-known
and popular because John built what later became a skateboard by fixing roller
skates to a board. He skated into the classroom, climbed up on the lab table
and demonstrated the forces of motion on the skateboard on the desk. Years
later, a professor said the marks made by the skateboard were still on that lab
table. His exciting lectures were developed because, when he came to Ursinus,
it had no Physics Department and gave no degrees in Physics. It gave the course
only to pre-med students who required it. At that time, there were only 3 med
students in the school. He needed to attract students to his courses. Later a
general science course was required by all students to graduate and John would
teach that course. Gradually, he did build up his Physics department.
In fact, John met Atanasoff when Atanasoff
came to hear John’s talk on the Harmonic Analyzer at the AAAS meeting in Philadelphia in December
1940. John was delighted to meet Atanasoff because he was also interested in
computers. They were kindred spirits.
Atanasoff told him he was building a computer to solve linear
simultaneous equations. He invited John to come out to Ames, Iowa
to see it. He said that it used vacuum tubes and it cost only $2 per digit.
John also was interested in using vacuum tubes in his computer, and he wondered
how Atanasoff could build something so cheap. Atanasoff was very secretive
about his computer and refused to tell John about it unless he visited him.
Atanasoff appeared concerned that IBM or some other company would learn of his
ideas. This visit was, according to the Burks duo, the inspiration for the
ENIAC. In the article, I traced how John’s earlier work had led naturally to
the conception of the ENIAC.
In 1991, Arthur and Alice Burks authored The First
Electronic Computer The Atanasoff Story. In this book, they proceed with a
venomous attack of John’s integrity and intellectual acuity. On page 181, the
book says, “they (Pres Eckert and John Mauchly) were greedy, for fame and
fortune, and did not want to acknowledge any prior inventor.” This despite the
fact that Mauchly and Eckert had asked all the ENIAC engineers/designers (Shaw,
Sharpless, Chu, Burks, and Husky) prior to the
patent application if they had anything they wanted to patent, and the response
was, “No.” In Appendix B in the book, they rip me apart, also impugning my
integrity and honesty. They make fun of me. Anything that presents Mauchly in a
good light is discounted and anything that even vaguely shows Adanasoff in a
good light is lauded to the heavens.
Adanasoff never applied for a patent of his ABC computer. He never thought that he had invented the
first electronic computer until Honeywell told him that he did, and, if they
could overturn the ENIAC Patent, they would pay him $300,000.
department at NOL was given $400,000 to build an EDVAC-like computer he never built a thing. The money was taken away
from him because nobody in his group could build one, according to von Neumann
as recounted by Calvin Moors. (ref)
Throughout his life, John was known as a born teacher and a
very giving person. As mentioned earlier, John trained his competitors when he
was in business. He was always full of ideas and suggestions about projects of
all sorts. He characterized his time with Atanasoff as mainly spent talking
about such questions as, “Why didn’t you…?” “Why not do…?” “How about…?”
Atanasoff’s ABC computer was partially
built. It was a combination of electronic and mechanical so it could not really
utilize the speed of the vacuum tubes that it used for calculations. John
wasn’t interested in it for his purposes. The low price per digit was due to
the storage being mechanical in nature.
The Burks book made
me literally sick to my stomach. I gave it to my son to read, and he said,
“Mom, ignore it, the truth will take care of itself.” And so I did. However, an
incident had occurred that had always bothered me. . When the ACM (Association
of Computing Machinery) had its annual meeting in Washington in 1967. John and I had a small
suite at a hotel. When we arrived back at our suite one evening, there was a
message from Arthur Burks saying that he wished to speak to John. When he
arrived, he told us that he wanted to talk to John privately. I went into the
bedroom while John met with Dr. Burks.
John returned in
about 5 minutes in a fury. He said that he wouldn’t be a party to blackmail.
Arthur had told him that a lawyer had suggested to him that he could make some
money from the royalties Univac would receive from the ENIAC patent if he could
get his name on the patent. As John understood him, Arthur would testify at the
ENIAC Patent Trial for Univac if Arthur’s name was put on the patent, but he would
testify for Honeywell if it was not. Although he was angry, John was also hurt
because he had liked Burks, had roomed with him when they both took the Moore
School Electronics Course before both became instructors, and had respected him
as a logician and a member of the ENIAC design team.
In his Deposition for the ENIAC Patent Trial, John tells
something of this incident.in pages 1426 through 1430. John said that Arthur
indicated that if Mauchly could be persuaded that there was “ propriety in
these claims on his (Arthur’s) part and on the part of others, that it would be
very helpful if I would join with them, announce my help; and that, on the
other hand, if I did not, he (Arthur) thought that things would go very badly
and my reputation would suffer, indeed.”
In a series of Customer Reviews on Amazon.com of the Alice
Burks book Who Invented the Computer? between Jean Bartik and the Burks duo,
Arthur denies that this meeting ever took place. He had been careful to make
sure that there was no witness to the meeting by asking me to leave the room.
I, however, had an uneasy feeling about this encounter and wanted to preserve
my memory of it. When Nancy Stern was writing her book From ENIAC to Univac, I
told her of this incident. She accompanied me when I went to Univac and signed
an affidavit describing the Burks visit and John’s reaction to it.
When Tom Petsinger’s
articles appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 1996, they were really about
Betty Holberton and Betty Jean Bartik and not much about the other ENIAC
Programmers. The Women In Technology International inducted all six of the
ENIAC Programmers into their Hall of Fame in 1997. I missed the ceremony
because I was booked on a tour to Paris with
some friends from Chestnut
days. I was flattered. The next year, we were invited to Boston where we received the WITI Hall of
Fame Statuette. It is beautiful. I felt that the women in computers today
couldn’t really relate to us. The times were so different. I enjoyed meeting Milly Koss and having lunch
celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the ENIAC, Judith Eckert
and I were invited to attend. I really think it is fine to honor people who
have spent many years working in the computer field. But what did Aberdeen do? They spent
their money flying in Gillan’s family from Germany. Gillan named the ENIAC.
Then who did they have as the keynote speaker? They had von Neumann’s daughter.
I’m sure she is a bright woman. But von Neumann had nothing to do with the
ENIAC until afterward when he worked on the instruction set of the 60-order
code. Who was the man of the hour? Goldstine. The review of the troops, the
panel discussions, the overblown oratory without once mentioning Eckert and
Mauchly. Oh, yeah, they had Judy Eckert and me cut the cake. The handouts included Goldstine’s book, a
lecture he had given and a few odds and ends. The only thing worthwhile was a
panel of the women who had worked on the ENIAC.
The Aberdeen crew members were trying to celebrate
themselves. They introduced a poorly designed commemorative stamp (Exhibit). Moore School
had one designed that was very appropriate, ENIAC spelled out in vacuum tubes. Aberdeen thought that honored Moore School
too much. They didn’t want to give Moore
School any credit. Aberdeen footed the bill
so they deserved the credit. My cousin had initiated the stamp in the first
place. It was infuriating that Aberdeen
had cancelled the original stamp and approved that ugly meaningless stamp. “No
good deed goes unpunished.”
Betty Jean Bartik and I
have given many, many talks together at universities and companies including
IBM and Microsoft. We have done the speaking because Fran and Marlyn have never
been interested in doing it. Ruth had died. Betty Holberton had a stroke in
1991 and was confined to a wheelchair. I love doing it, but I mainly talk about
being there. We even gave the keynote speech for an awards banquet of ACM. I
went with Betty when Northwest
named their computer museum after her. I
worked for over 2 years on the ENIAC before I married John Mauchly. After that,
I was involved in the computer industry only through John. But, thinking about
it, most of our lives have been spent around those who had been associated with
One day in 1997, I received
a telephone call from an Irishwoman named Pat Sharky. She had been doing some
geneology searches on the internet. Her mother had been a McNulty, and she
discovered me. Not only was I a McNulty but I had also been an ENIAC Programmer.
Pat was an entrepreneur with her own
business of advising people about setting up websites on the internet. We
talked several times. Then she got the idea that various people in Ireland would be interested in learning about me
had a large software industry but no connection to computer history. I could be
a connection. What she proposed was to make a documentary about me. She would
find funding to bring me to Ireland
to visit various places while she would have me videotaped by a professional
crew. Later she would visit the US
with her crew and videotape me at the University of Pennsylvania
and at my home with my family.
She did get funding from 3 places: Limerick
University and the Institute of Technology
in Letterkenny. I had told her that I usually traveled and spoke with Betty
Bartik, so she was included in the trip. We had a wonderful time. Pat met us at
the airport in Limerick and took us out to Bed
and Breakfast for the night. The next day we went to Bumratty Castle
and visited around town. It looked very much like the descriptions given in
Frank McCourt’s book, Angela’s Ashes. It is a dreary looking little town, but I
knew it was home to Irishmen with dreams. That night we went to the Castle for
dinner. It was wonderful. ( picture of us at Bumratty Castle)
The next day, we spoke at Limerick
University where our
photographer and a crew met us and videotaped us. From then on, we were
shadowed by the cameraman videotaping us all the time. I was not too disturbed
by it because I had been followed around by photographers many times when I was
with John. Betty was more bothered by it for a while.
we spoke at the University there. Then we were off to Donegal and the
Letterkenny Institute of Technology
there. I was so surprised when we arrived and I was met by about 20 of
my relatives in Ireland.
Somebody had contacted all of my relatives in the area. Some I had never even
known I had. It was wonderful. They were all invited to our lectures and to the
luncheon afterwards. Our pictures were taken for various newspapers around Ireland. I had
a wonderful time. They also named an award for me. The award goes to the best
student in computer science each year.
The next day, we visited my father’s home at Feymore and some cousins.
I was so upset because my father’s place was run down and not well-kept. Later
we met up with a free-lance photographer in Letterkenny. He said the light was
bad in Letterkenny so he took us to a bridge for some pictures of me draped
over a bridge rail. I thought it was a little much for an old lady like me. I
never saw the pictures that were published in the Irish newspapers.
The greatest delight of my
life was being married to John Mauchly. Somehow, he was always bigger than life.
He was so intelligent and had so many ideas. It was a joy being with him. He
was not only lovable, he was loving.
The next biggest joy of my
life are my children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren. Sidney and
Jimmy and their children and grandchildren are included as mine also. They all
love each other and are included in everything. I have had a wonderful life.
The only thing that I really regret is that
Pres and I did not write our book about the ENIAC, EDVAC and Univac. Pres was
always very angry about the lies that were told and copied from one book to the
next, He said that they could go ahead and write their books, but he and I
would write one telling the real story. When I wrote the article for the Annals
in 1981 about John’s work at Ursinus, Pres came over every day to help me. He
said then that we should go on and write the full story. One time, he, Judith,
Severo and I went to a banquet in New
York when ACM moved to new headquarters. It was in
1990/91. We went up by limousine. On the way home, Severo and Judith went to
sleep. Pres and I talked all the way home about what we would put in the book.
Somehow, we were wrapped up in our lives and never got around to writing the
If I am remembered at all,
I would like to be remembered as my family storyteller. It has been a great