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Biographies -- Cuthbert Corwin Hurd Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129984D
Original Publication Date: 1997-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 16 page(s) / 60K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

IEEE Computer Society: OWNER


Biographies -- Cuthbert Corwin Hurd

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Copyright ©; 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Biographies -- Cuthbert Corwin Hurd

Eloge: Cuthbert Corwin Hurd (1911-1996)

Cuthbert C. (Corwin) Hurd, educator, historian, mathematician, and key IBM executive, who taught his reluctant management about the necessity of entering the world of computing and showed how to do it with the IBM-701, the IBM-650, and Fortran, who later became a remarkable computer entrepreneur, and who was an editor of Annals, died of the wear and tear of old age in Portola Valley, California, on May 22, 1996, at the age of 85. He was one of the early giants of computing on whose shoulders we stood.

Before IBM

Born Apr. 5, 1911, in Estherville, Iowa, Hurd was educated at Drake University and Iowa State College and earned a PhD in mathematics at the University of Illinois in 1936. The title of his thesis was "The Asymptotic Theory of Linear Differential Equations Singular in the Variable of Differentiation and in a Parameter." He taught mathematics at Michigan State College from 1936 to 1942 and, as a lieutenant commander, at the Coast Guard Academy from 1942 to 1945. White there, he published his first book, Mathematics for Mariners, a refresher for college graduates. (Captain C.E. Dimmick. head of the academy's mathematics department, is listed, by courtesy, as coauthor.) He served as dean of Allegheny College from 1945 to 1947 and was technical research head from 1947 to 1949 at the uranium 235 concentration plant operated by the Union Carbide and Carbon Company at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was at Oak Ridge that he first encountered IBM punched card machines, the two calculating punches: first the relay operated IBM-602A and then the electronic IBM-604.

Starting in 1947, Hurd had several discussions with John von Neumann about hiring him as an Oak Ridge consultant. At the time, von Neumann was deeply involved in the design and potential application of almost every U.S. "electronic computing instrument." They were all huge and, in von Neumann's opinion, would be useful only as mathematical tools. Although Oak Ridge did not get von Neumann at that time, the discussions persuaded Hurd to give up his leanings toward an academic career to join industry, specifically IBM, to attack the complicated mathematical problems of atomic energy and aircraft design. (In 1951, Hurd was able to retain von Neumann as an IBM consultant for 30 days a year for $12,000 plus expenses.)

(Image Omitted: Cuthhert Corwin Hurd)

Beginning at IBM

Late in 1948, Hurd approached the top IBM executives about employment. After a few interviews, and what he caned complicated negotiations," he joined IBM in March 1949 at World Headquarters in New York at an annual salary of $13,500. He had no clearly defined job or title. With the exception of Dwayne Orton, then director of education, he believed he was t...