Biography:Adele Goldstine

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Short description: American computer programmer (1920–1964)
Adele Goldstine
Adele Katz

(1920-12-21)December 21, 1920
New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 1964(1964-11-00) (aged 43)
Alma mater
Known forFirst manual on electronic digital computer
Herman Goldstine (m. 1941)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer Programming and Mathematics

Adele Goldstine (née Katz; December 21, 1920 – November 1964) was an American mathematician and computer programmer. She wrote the manual for the first electronic digital computer, ENIAC. Through her work programming the computer, she was also an instrumental player in converting the ENIAC from a computer that needed to be reprogrammed each time it was used to one that was able to perform a set of fifty stored instructions.[1]

Early life and education

Goldstine was born in New York City on December 21, 1920, to Yiddish-speaking Jewish parents.[1] Her father was a business man and his name was William Katz.[2] Her father emigrated from Pandėlys, Lithuania (then Russian Empire) in 1902.[3][4] She attended Hunter College High School, then Hunter College. After receiving her B.A., she attended the University of Michigan, where she earned a Master's in mathematics aged 22.[2]

Personal life

At the University of Michigan, she met Herman Goldstine, who was the military liaison and administrator for the construction of the ENIAC, and they were married in 1941.[2] After marriage, Herman had his job as a manager for project ENIAC, while Adele went to the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Together, they had two children, born in 1952 and 1959.[1]

Work on ENIAC

As an instructor of mathematics for the women "computers" at the Moore School, Goldstine also trained some of the six women who were the original programmers of ENIAC to manually calculate ballistic trajectories (complex differential calculations).[5][6] The job of computer was critical to the war effort, and women were regarded as capable of doing the work more rapidly and accurately than men.[7] By 1943, and for the balance of World War II, essentially all computers were women as were many of their direct supervisors.

Goldstine wrote the Operators Manual for the ENIAC after the six women (Kay McNulty, Betty Jean Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas and Ruth Lichterman) trained themselves to "program" the ENIAC using its logical and electrical block diagrams. Reconfiguring the machine to solve a different problem involved physically plugging and unplugging wires on the machine; it was called "setting-up," as the modern terminology of "program" had not yet come into use.[8]

In 1946 Goldstine sat in on programming sessions with Bartik and Dick Clippinger and was hired to help implement Clippinger's stored program modification to the ENIAC. John von Neumann was a consultant on the selection of the instruction set implemented. This solved the problem of the programmers having to unplug and replug patch cables for every program the machine was to run; instead the program was entered on the three function tables, which had previously been used only for storage of a trajectory's drag function. ENIAC programmer Jean Bartik called Goldstine one of her three great programming partners along with Betty Holberton and Art Gehring.[9] They worked together to program the Taub program for the ENIAC.[citation needed]

Post-war years

After the war, Goldstine continued her programming work with von Neumann at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she devised problems for ENIAC to process.[1]


After having two children, in 1953 and 1960, she was diagnosed with cancer in 1962. She died two years later at the age of 43 in 1964.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Jones, J. Sydney. "Adele Katz Goldstine." In Notable Women Scientists. Gale: 1999, pp. 212–13
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Adele Katz Goldstine". January 13, 2016. 
  3. 1930 United States Federal Census
  4. New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794–1943 for William Katz
  5. "Adele Katz Goldstine – Engineering and Technology History Wiki" (in en). January 13, 2016. 
  6. Brainerd, John G. "Genesis of the ENIAC" Technology and Culture. Vol. 17. No. 3, pp. 482–88.
  7. Fritz, W. Barkley (1996). "The Women of ENIAC". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 18 (3): 13–28. doi:10.1109/85.511940. 
  8. Grier, David A. (1996). "The ENIAC, The Verb "to Program" and the Emergence of Digital Computers". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 18: 51–55. doi:10.1109/85.476561. 
  9. "Oral-History:Jean Bartik – Engineering and Technology History Wiki". January 26, 2021.