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Biographies: John Grist Brainerd

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129548D
Original Publication Date: 1988-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 2 page(s) / 16K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

ERIC A. WEISS: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Obituary

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1988 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Biographies: John Grist Brainerd

ERIC A. WEISS, EDITOR

Obituary

John Grist Brainerd, a life-long professor at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania, and head of the team that created ENTAC from conception through construction to final operation, died on 1 February 1988, at the age of 83, at the Quaker retirement community of Crosslands in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. He formerly lived in Exton, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death he was Emeritus University Professor. He is survived by his wife, Carol Paxson Brainerd.

Brainerd earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and began teaching there in 1925. While working his way through college, he was at one time a part-time police reporter for the now-defunct Philadelphia North American. In 1927 he helped establish the first evening graduate program in electrical engineering. He initiated new electrical engineering courses and was co-author of two pioneering textbooks, High Frequency Alternating Currents (1931), and Ultra-High Frequency Techniques (1942). The latter was a major aid in training and upgrading engineers who were needed for radar development. In addition to his research, publication, and teaching (which was his lifetime love), he contributed to the work of technical committees and the organization of the IRE, AIEE, and its jointure, the IEEE. Even after retirement in 1975, he continued to commute from Crosslands to his Moore School office and served as president of the Society for the History of Technology, in which he had been active for many years.

He made his chief contribution to computing when he played a major management role in realizing the proposals of engineer J. Presper Eckert and the late physicist John W. Mauchly to build ENIAC. As a professor at the Moore School, he endorsed and took formal responsibility for the design and construction proposal to the Army, and was designated as the principal investigator. That is, if ENIAC had failed, it would have been his neck. Controversy about the relative roles and contributions to ENIAC has been constant since the importance of the computer was first recognized by others, but there is no question about Brainerd's support of the project when it was just a dream, declared to be wild, impractical, and impossible by some who have since forgotten their myopia. There is also no question that he was formally designated as project head or that he was responsible for getting and managing its $486,000 budget of which he later said that "considering the magnitude of the result, it was one of the cheapest research and development projects the government ever invested in." Some of this controversy has been reported in past Annals articles, most notably in "The ENIAC: First General Purpos...