John William Mauchly




John Mauchly was born in Cincinnati, OH on august 30th 1907.  He was the son of  Sebastian and Rachel Mauchly. The Mauchly's moved to Washington DC and in 1913 when Sebastian Mauchly accepted a position as a physicist at the Carnegie Institute.  John grew up in a suburb of Maryland and attended McKinley Technical High School in downtown Washington.  In 1925 he won a scholarship to study engineering from the State of Maryland which he used to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. At Johns Hopkins he studying engineering at first, but was drawn to physics.  His father's health became a concern  during this time, and his father died in 1928.  In 1927, feeling that engineering was too mundane, Mauchly used a special provision allowing exceptional undergraduate students to enroll directly in a Ph.D. program prior to completing their undergraduate degrees to move to the graduate physics program.  After the death of his father, Mauchly continued his studies on scholarships so that he submitted his dissertation on "The Third Positive Group of Carbon Monoxide Bands" to Johns Hopkins University in 1932.


The depression limited the number of jobs available for young academicians, and even though he had a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, a very prestigious school, he had difficulty in finding a position.  His dissertation work, molecular spectroscopy, was considered old hat, in a physics community gearing up for nuclear physics.  Eventually he settled for a position at Ursinus College. Though this job at a small, liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia paid the bills, Mauchly was effectively cut-off from high level physics research which required expensive equipment like accelerators and spectrometers.  Mauchly turned his research interests to developing analog electronic research instruments and eventually electronic calculating machines.


When World War II erupted, Mauchly took one of the defense training courses in electronics at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.   During the course, Mauchly first met J. Presper Eckert who was a lab assistant to the course.  Mauchly was offered a position as an instructor for the course afterwards which gave him entrée to the Moore School.  The Moore School used a Bush analyser to integrate systems of ordinary differential equations for ballistics tables.  In the summer of 1942 Mauchly outlined the idea of a large-scale digital electronic computer designed for general numerical computations, but pitched as a means to overcome the backlog of ballistic calculations at Moore.  Eckert provided technical insights as well.  The senior faculty at Moore did not rise to Mauchly's memo.  However, the memo was the basis for a formal proposal submitted year after, which caught the eye of Lt. Herman Goldstine of the Ballistics Research Laboratory, who was the contractor of Moore's calculating services.  Goldstine's Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Chicago allowed him to grasp the potential of the device proposed by Mauchly.  As a result, the U.S. Army gave a contract of $61,000 which eventually became approximately $500,000 to the Moore School in April of 1943.  The top secret project was designated Project PX.  Bureaucratic formalities meant that, ironically, Mauchly never officially held a position as a researcher on Project PX. As an instructor, Mauchly could only act in the capacity of a consultant to the project.  In reality, Mauchly worked closely with Eckert and others to build ENIAC.


ENIAC was not completed until 1945, after which Mauchly and Eckert left Moore to found the Electronic Control Company.  ECC built BINAC for Northrop, which used magnetic tape for memory.  The company then became the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, which built 46 UNIVACs, which could handle both alphabetical and numerical information.  In 1950 the Remington Rand acquired the Eckert-Mauchly.  Mauchly left to found Mauchly Associates.  Muachly was president of Mauchly Associates from 1959 to 1965, an then became chairman of the board.  In 1968 Dynatrend Inc. hired Mauchly as their president.  In 1970  he also became president of Marketrend Inc..  He held both positions until he died in 1980.  



University of Pennsylvania's Mauchly Page MacTutor Biography Blastoff Media Mauchly Presentation