The Human Computer and the Birth of the
David A. Grier
Associate Professor, George Washington University
Friday, May 11, 2001 at 8:30 P.M.
Before Palm Pilots, PCs and mainframes, human computers did
the calculation that is now done by electronic machines. These workers were
not calculating geniuses nor idiot savants but knowledgeable people who, in
other times and other circumstances, would have become scientists in their
own right. They first appeared with the return of Halley's comet in 1758
and represent the impact of commercial methods on the scientific laboratory.
About the Author:
David Alan Grier is the director of the University Honors
Program at the George Washington University and is an associate professor of
computer science. He graduated from Middlebury College as a mathematics
major and completed his PhD at the University of Washington in statistical
computation. He became interested in human computers when he discovered
that his grandmother had been trained to be one during the first world war.
She was a mathematics major at the University of Michigan, class of 1921.
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