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Biographical Information

George R. Stibitz
April 30, 1904 - January 31, 1995

(There is some confusion on the web about his date of birth, but we have confirmed that his birthdate is indeed April 30th.)

Born in York, Pennsylvania, Stibitz attended Moraine Park, an experimental school in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Denison University in 1926 with a Ph.B. in Applied Mathematics. (Ph.B. is often mistakenly written as Ph.D.) He received an M.S. from Union College in 1927 and a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell in 1930. Stibitz joined Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1930 and served as a mathematical consultant. From 1940 to 1945 he was on loan to the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development. Following World War II, he was an independent consultant in applied mathematics for various government and industrial agencies. In 1964 he joined the Department of Physiology at Dartmouth Medical School as a research associate. He then worked primarily on applications of physics, mathematics, and computers to biophysical systems. He became a professor in 1966 and professor emeritus in 1970. Stibitz was awarded 34 patents.

George R. Stibitz is internationally recognized as the father of the modern digital computer. Stibitz's interest in computers arose from an assignment in 1937 to study magneto-mechanics of telephone relays; he turned his attention to the binary circuits controlled by the relays, to the arithmetic operations expressible in binary form, and, in November 1937, to the construction of a two-digit binary adder. The next year, with the help of S.B. Williams of Bell Labs, he developed a full-scale calculator for complex arithmetic. This computer was operational late in 1939 and was demonstrated in 1940 by remote control between Hanover, New Hampshire, and New York. Several binary computers of greater sophistication followed. In these were introduced the excess 3 code, floating decimal arithmetic, self-checking circuits, jump program instructions, taped programs and 'table-hunting' subcomputers. He is also responsible for the error-detector which, according to his daughter, he used to gleefully stick toothpicks into a random relay and have the machine locate the problem.

The original Model K computer was disassembled. However, George recreated ones that now sit on display in the Smithsonian, as well as the William Howard Doane Library at Denison University.

excerpts taken from: Hall of Fame / Inventor Profile / George Robert Stibitz. Retrieved April 13, 2004, from Nationial Inventors Hall of Fame