On March 25 Martin Kalfatovic met with Maria Van der Spuy-Groenewald, Digitization Coordinator, Department of Library Services, University of Pretoria (South Africa). Ms. Van der Spuy-Groenewald visited the United States under the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program.
But what caught my interest in the text is a reference to the first American female botanist, Jane Colden (1724-1766). Jane was educated at home by her parents. Her father, Cadwallader Colden, an amateur botanist himself, noticed she had an aptitude for botany and taught her the new Linnaean plant classification system as well as translating Latin technical terminology into English for her. He also corresponded and invited several distinguished botanists at the time to his home at Coldengham, his estate near Newburgh, New York. So Jane had the opportunity to meet John and William Bartram of Philadelphia, PA, Alexander Garden of Charleston, SC, and Peter Kalm of Sweden and exchange specimens as well as seeds with them.
It is believed Carl Linnaeus also knew of her work. He corresponded directly with her father and in a series of correspondence between John Ellis and him in 1758, Mr. Ellis mentions he will let Jane know “what civil things you [Linnaeus] say of her [Jane].”
Jane’s legacy to botany and colonial New York is her illustrated flora of the area called Botanic Manuscript. The original resides in the Botany Library at the Natural History Museum in the UK. In 1963, some of the descriptions and drawings of Jane Colden’s were reproduced and published as a limited edition. Both books mentioned in this post can be found in the Smithsonian Libraries natural history collection.
Feeling a little geeky? Nostalgic for the days when NASA had less computing power than your cell phone? In honor of Women's History Month, the Libraries and the National Museum of American History would like to enable you to build your own ENIAC. Ok, well, maybe not really build - you might have trouble finding over 17,000 vacuum tubes - but you could learn how to run one!
First a little context...we were thrilled a few months back when Peggy Kidwell, curator of Mathematics at the National Museum of American History, decided to transfer a piece of printed computing history to our Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. It was a complete set of the operational and technical manuals for the first 'general purpose' computer, ENIAC.
Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bartik) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence) operating the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. U.S. Army Photo from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. [Image from Wikimedia Commons ]
ENIAC, short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, was built at the Moore School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania for the U.S. Army Ballistics Research Laboratory and completed in 1946 after the end of World War II. ENIAC was designed by J. Prespert Eckert and John Mauchley, created by many talented engineers and mathematicians at the Moore School, and programmed, debugged and operated by 6 women - Kathleen McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, Frances Snyder Holberton, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum, and Jean Jennings Bartik.
ENIAC grew out of a need to more quickly and efficiently perform the computations to create ballistics trajectory and firing tables. As the majority of men on college campuses had been drafted for the war, the computations required for creating those tables were primarily done by women (many of whom were themselves mathematicians or math majors) operating simple mechanical calculators. As ENIAC was being developed, some of the same women who had been employed as 'computers' for the Army were then hired as 'operators' for the new electronic computer. Their jobs turned out to be much more than just 'operating' the computer. For starters, when the original programmers were hired in 1946, because the computer itself was not yet finished and no manuals had been written they had to learn how ENIAC worked by studying circuit diagrams.
Programming ENIAC was a complicated and time consuming process that involved figuring out the logical sequence of operations that would correctly perform the calculations; manually moving and plugging in cables; physically flipping switches; creating the input and interpreting the output (both on punch cards); and troubleshooting the 40 parallel units that made up ENIAC with 18,000 vacuum tubes,1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, and 10,000 capacitors. Programming to do one calculation often took days and could take longer if say, cleaning staff accidentally knocked out a cable and plugged it back in to the wrong plug! Eventually, in 1948 a simple read-only storage mechanism was devised that greatly reduced the time it took to program ENIAC. This new stored-program process was developed by a team of programmers and engineers, including four programmers lead by Jean Bartik, Richard Clippinger,John von Neumann, Adele Goldstine, John Giese, and A. Galbraith. All 6 of the original ENIAC programmers were inducted into the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame in 1997.
Adele Goldstine, one of the original 6 programmers, also wrote the technical manual and the Report on the Eniac, copies of which are now at the Dibner Library of Science and Technology. The Libraries is happy to report that we are now digitizing all the operational and technical manuals, including diagrams, and will be making them available online at the Internet Archive. We have finished Report vol. 5, and hope to have some of the operational manuals available in the coming month. The operations manuals consist of large circuit diagrams, folded into a book-format, and are taking a little longer to scan than the average book!
I highly recommend this transcript of 50 Years of Army Computing From ENIAC to MSRC (pdf, opens in new window) edited by Thomas J. Bergin from a 1996 symposium. It has fascinating first-person accounts of what it was like to work on ENIAC.
The 1962 edition of Current Biography (Wilson) states "The most celebrated woman painter in the United States today, Grace Hartigan, is a leading member of the New York School of abstract expressionists. She produces approximately one major painting a month and often sells a work before oil is dry (p.192)."
During the 1950s Grace Hartigan was indeed one of the most popular American women artists. Born in 1922 she grew up with little formal training in the arts. However, she moved to New York City in 1945 and continued to live and paint in Manhattan's Lower East Side. In Greenwich Village she met fellow artists and in 1950 was chosen to be included in the "Talent" show organized by Clement Greenberg and Meyer Schapiro. With such critical backing, fame and one-person exhibitions followed, resulting in Hartigan being one of the most prominent names of the second generation of the New York School which included Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Rauschenberg.
During the 1950s, Hartigan began to move from pure abstraction and began to use figural representation in her work. During this transition she began a collaboration with the poet Frank O'Hara who was greatly involved with the modern art world. The result of this collaboration was twelve paintings titled Oranges which incorporated texts from O'Hara's poems. Hartigan continued to produced works incorporating figuration through her career. However, by the 1960s her work declined in popularity due to opposing factors. Champions of pure abstraction, such as Clement Greenberg, lambasted her for including representational aspects in her work. Additionally the 1960s saw the rise of Pop and Minimalism. She moved to Baltimore, Maryland and taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art while she continued to paint and exhibit. She continued to teach at MICA until the year before her death in 2008 and remains an important figure of the New York School second generation.
The Smithsonian Libraries contains many books about Grace Hartigan. Additionally the library for the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery has three folders in its vertical file collection. One item (show above) in the vertical files is the 1959 announcement for the Tibor de Nagy Gallery exhibition of eight of the Oranges paintings Hartigan created in collaboration with O'Hara, The image above also shows a reproduction of one of the works from that series displayed in the exhbition.