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John Vincent Atanasoff

Atanasoff, John Vincent, 1903–1995, inventor of the digital computer, b. Hamilton, N.Y., grad. Univ. of Florida (B.S., 1925), Iowa State College (M.S., 1926), Univ. of Wisconsin (Ph.D., 1930). While teaching mathematics and physics at Iowa State (1930–42), he developed the Atanasoff-Berry computer (ABC; 1939), a semielectronic digital computer, with the help of graduate student Clifford Berry, but a patent application was never filed by Atanasoff or Iowa State. After working for the U.S. government on various computer projects (1942–52), he founded (1952) the Ordnance Engineering Corp.; after he sold his firm to Aerojet General Corp. in 1956 he continued to work there. In 1961 he started Cybernetics, Inc., where he worked until 1981. A 1973 legal action pitted Atanasoff and the ABC against John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert and their ENIAC computer. Mauchly and Eckert had claimed responsibility for more than 100 inventions related to electronic digital computing patents, but a judge found against them, stating that their innovations were based on Atanasoff's work.

See J. Smiley, The Man Who Invented the Computer (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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