Person: Eckert, Wallace J.
Wallace J Eckert was an American astronomer whose work was important in the development of computers.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- At that time Ernest Brown was a member of the astronomy department and Brown's work on the Moon was an important ingredient of Eckert's later work.
- Eckert had joined the Faculty at Columbia University in 1926 and later he became professor there.
- Eckert was an early user of IBM punch card equipment to reduce astronomical data and solve numerically planetary orbits.
- In 1937 Columbia University and IBM established the Thomas J Watson Astronomical Computing Bureau as a result of the collaboration with Eckert.
- The work which led to this development was published by Eckert in Punched card methods in scientific computation (1940).
- In 1940 Eckert became director of the US Nautical Almanac Office and produced work vital to navigation during World War II.
- In 1945 Eckert became director of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University.
- Eckert directed the construction of a number of innovative computers.
- Eckert applied computers, in particular the SSEC and NORC, to compute precise planetary positions and contribute to the theory of the orbit of the Moon.
- In particular he used the SSEC to compute the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, publishing the results in 1951 in Coordinates of the five outer planets.
- The NORC was used by Eckert to work on the problem of the position of the Moon.
- Eckert therefore decided not to recompute new tables but to compute the ephemerides directly from Brown's equations.
- The accuracy of Eckert's calculations of the Moon's orbit was so good that in 1965 he was able to correctly show that there was a concentration of mass near the lunar surface.
Born 19 June 1902, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Died 24 August 1971, Englewood, New Jersey, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Usa
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive