Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
John W. Mauchly was born on August 30, 1907, to Sebastian and Rachel (Scheidermantel) Mauchly in Cincinnati, Ohio. He moved with his parents and sister, Helen Elizabeth (Betty), at an early age to Chevy Chase, Maryland, when Sebastian Mauchly obtained a position at the Carnegie Institute of Washington as head of its Section of Terrestrial Electricity. As a youth, Mauchly was interested in science, and in particular with electricity, and was known to fix neighbors' electric systems at the age of 13 or 14. Mauchly attended E.V. Brown Elementary School in Chevy Chase and McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC. At McKinley, Mauchly was extremely active in the debate team, was a member of the national honor society, and became editor-in-chief of the school's newspaper, Tech Life. After graduating from high school in 1925, he earned a scholarship to study engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He subsequently transferred to the Physics Department, and without completing his undergraduate degree, instead earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1932.
From 1932 to 1933, Mauchly served as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins University where he concentrated on calculating energy levels of the formaldehyde spectrum. Mauchly's teaching career truly began in 1933 at Ursinus College where he was appointed head of the physics department, where he was, in fact, the only staff member. According to John Costello, Mauchly "became a campus celebrity--if not a faculty favorite--for the irreverent Professor Ho-Hum lectures he used to deliver on the last day of class before Christmas," (Costello, page 50). In addition to his teaching duties, Mauchly sought automated ways to manipulate weather data. After some experimentation on his own, he visited John V. Atanasoff, an Iowa State University professor and inventor of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) which used vacuum tubes. Because the ABC machine was not fully electronic, Mauchly decided to continue his own research and experimentation.
In the summer of 1941, Mauchly took a Defense Training Course for Electronics at the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering. There he met the lab instructor, J. Presper Eckert (1919-1995), with whom he would form a long-standing working partnership. Following the course, Mauchly was hired as an instructor of electrical engineering and in 1943, he was promoted to assistant professor of electrical engineering. Following the outbreak of World War II, the United States Army Ordnance Department contracted the Moore School to build an electronic computer which, as proposed by Mauchly and Eckert, would accelerate the recomputation of artillery firing tables. In 1943, Mauchly and Eckert began building the ENIAC, Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, "an electronic machine to replace mechanical devices" (Costello, page 45). Mauchly has been described as the visionary and Eckert the engineering mastermind of Project PX, the name of the ENIAC during development. ENIAC was not completed until 1946, one year after the end of the war, and was first used by the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland for ballistics testing in 1947.
While still at Penn's Moore School, and even during the construction of ENIAC, Eckert and Mauchly were also working on the "next computer," the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), which Mauchly describes as "the outcome of lengthy planning in which Eckert and [he] deliberately tried to overcome many problems of storage and control which were evident in the hasty 'state-of-the-art' ENIAC System," (Mauchly, Datamation). However, in 1946, Eckert and Mauchly resigned from Penn as a result of a patent dispute over "changes in the way in which ... contracts were administered at the University and changes which the University wished to make in the terms of [their] employment" (Mauchly, Resume). Together, they immediately formed the Electronic Control Company (ECC) which was later renamed the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC) when it was incorporated on December 22, 1947. During this period of Mauchly's career, he was denied security clearance which made his work difficult and resulted in his frequently working from home. Although the reasons for Mauchly's security clearance problems were never disclosed, Kay Mauchly suspected, based upon Mauchly's FBI file that it was because he subscribed to Consumer Reports which was declared communist-oriented, or because some members of his staff were considered security risks. Despite this challenge, Eckert and Mauchly introduced, in 1949, the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), which used magnetic tape rather than punched cards and stored computer programs internally. By 1950, the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC) had been developed.
In February 1950, EMCC was purchased by Remington Rand, and EMCC became a division of Rand. The UNIVAC went on the market in 1951 and is considered the first widely used commercial computer able to handle both numerical and alphabetical data. The first order for a UNIVAC came from the United States Bureau of the Census. In 1955, Remington Rand merged with Sperry Corporation and Mauchly became the head of the UNIVAC Applications Research Center (UARC), the UNIVAC division of the Sperry Rand Corporation. Applications research was a field for which Mauchly had long campaigned, and while heading UARC, Mauchly, along with his colleagues, developed C-10 programming code as well as many other "component parts for a commercially useful data processing device of high speed and general scope," (Mauchly, Resume). UNIVAC II was introduced in 1957. Documents within the John W. Mauchly papers indicate that Mauchly and Remington Rand/Sperry Rand did not always agree on the direction in which the company was headed, although productive work appears to have been achieved.
In 1959, Mauchly left Sperry Rand and started Mauchly Associates, Inc. One of Mauchly Associates' notable achievements was the development of the Critical Path Method (CPM) which provided for automated construction scheduling. Mauchly also set up a consulting organization, Dynatrend, in 1967 and worked as a consultant to Sperry UNIVAC from 1973 until his death in 1980.
During the early 1970s, Sperry Rand and Honeywell underwent litigation regarding the invention of the electronic computer. According to Kay Mauchly, "Sperry was suing to collect royalties, charging infringement of the ENIAC patent [and] Honeywell wished to avoid paying royalties by claiming that the ENIAC patent was invalid because of prior art (among other things) and charging Sperry with restraint of trade," (Mauchly, Kathleen R., page 117). The court eventually ruled that Mauchly and Eckert had not invented the electronic digital computer, but that instead, John V. Atanasoff was the inventor. Many critics of this ruling say that there are very few similarities between Atanasoff's ABC and the ENIAC; and Kay Mauchly states that papers and "physical components of the electronic computer that Mauchly was building during the time he was teaching at Ursinus College ... alone are evidence that Mauchly's concept of an electronic 'computer-calculator' predated any association with John V. Atanasoff and led directly to the design of the ENIAC," (Mauchly, Kathleen R., page 117).
John Mauchly died on January 8, 1980, in Abington, Pennsylvania, during heart surgery and following a long illness. His first wife, Mary Augusta Walzl, a mathematician, whom he married on December 30, 1930, drowned in 1946. John and Mary Mauchly had two children, James (Jimmy) and Sidney. In 1948, Mauchly married Kathleen Kay McNulty (1921-2006), one of the six original ENIAC programmers; they had five children Sara (Sallie), Kathleen (Kathy), John, Virginia (Gini), and Eva.
Costello, John. "As the Twig is Bent: The Early Life of John Mauchly," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 18, No. 1, 1996, pages 45-50.
Mauchly, John W. "Amending the ENIAC Story," Datamation, Volume 25, No. 11, 1970
Mauchly, John W. "Resume: Education and Experience of John W. Mauchly," (unpublished).
Mauchly, Kathleen R. "John Mauchly's Early Years," Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 6, Number 2, April 1984, pages 116-138.
John W. Mauchly (1907-1980) was a physicist, teacher, and a leader in the development of computers. With J. Presper Eckert, he invented the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), and the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC). This first installment of Mauchly's papers documents Mauchly's youth, education, early career at Ursinus College, his work at the University of Pennsylvania Moore School of Electrical Engineering, his partnership with J. Presper Eckert, with whom he formed two companies, the Electronic Control Company (ECC) and the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC), and his work through 1959 with Remington Rand/Sperry Rand after its purchase of EMCC in 1950. Processing of the remainder of the collection is ongoing and this finding aid will be updated as additional material becomes available.
This portion of the collection is divided into three series: I. Youth, education, and early career; II. Moore School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania; and III. Eckert-Mauchly partnership. For detailed information on each series, please see the finding aid. Researchers should be aware that there is limited material on the development of the ENIAC which was a classified War Department project.
Whenever possible, John Mauchly's original order has been maintained. As a result, researchers may find articles, writings, and other material in multiple folders within the collection. Arrangement of correspondence has been maintained as it was organized either by Mauchly in his early years or by his secretaries during the Eckert-Mauchly partnership period. When acronyms or abbreviations have not been fully described, it is because the full name is not known.
This collection will be of value to scholars studying the development of computers, in particular the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer (EDVAC), the Binary Automatic Computer (BINAC), and the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC). Early work in programming, coding, compilers, routines and subroutines, and most importantly, the application of electronic computers in government, business, and industry, as well as the history of the computer, is well documented. Moreover, this collection provides a glimpse into the personal life of the remarkable man behind this work through his interactions with family, friends, and colleagues.
Gifts of John W. and Kay Mauchly, 1981 and Kay Mauchly, 1986.
- United States. Army. Ordnance Corps
- Ursinus College
- Johns Hopkins University. Department of Physics
- University of Pennsylvania
- Moore School of Electrical Engineering
- Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Remington Rand, Inc.
- Univac Applications Research Center
- Sperry Rand Corporation. Univac Division
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2015 September 9
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use. However, a few files containing personally identifiable information and student records are restricted from access. These files, housed in box 9, folders 13-16, 19, and 20-24; box 15, folders 1 and 34, and box 34, folder 50, are clearly marked in the finding aid. For information about gaining access to portions of restricted items, researchers should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.