Tech Women: Meet Adele Goldstine, The Woman Behind ENIAC

Adele Goldstein

A renowned computer programmer in the mid-20th century, Adele Goldstine wrote the technical description for the ENIAC. It is an acronym for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer and is considered to be the first operational electronic digital computer in the United States.

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Birth and Education

She was born on 21 December, 1920, in a Jewish family in New York City. Goldstine did her schooling from Hunter College High School in New York City and then went to Hunter College to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. After that, she joined the University of Michigan and obtained a Master’s degree in the same subject. There, she met computer scientist Herman Golstine. He was one of the original developers of the ENIAC. The duo married in 1941 and had two children.

Career and achievements

  • Goldstine began her career as a mathematics teacher for the woman computers at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.
  • She was the ENIAC’s first programmer and wrote the manual on its logical operation.
  • Goldstine was entrusted with the onus of recruiting and teaching programming to the other six women selected for becoming ENIAC’s first programmers. They had to perform hand calculations of the firing table trajectory.
  • She wrote the detailed Operators Manual for the ENIAC around 1945.
  • In 1946, she implemented Dick Clippinger’s stored program modification to the ENIAC.
  • Later, she worked on the ENIAC stored-program project from Princeton.

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She succumbed to cancer in 1964. She was 43 then.

Her early death meant that the world lost an important figure who played an instrumental role in the development of computers over the years. However, it is great to see women like Adele Goldstine from the annals of history who not only did wonders in the field of computers but also mentored other women who went on to do stellar work on ENIAC. She is definitely a brilliant woman to look up to.

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