Columbia University Computing History   

The Baehne Book

The Baehne book
Baehne, George W. (IBM), Practical Applications of the Punched Card Method in Colleges and Universities, Columbia University Press (1935); hardbound, 442 pages, 257 figures.

Here are scans of the title page and the table of contents (click on first thumbnail to enter gallery):

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The book's articles are collected into the following groups, with contributing institutions listed (see the scanned contents for greater detail):

Applications for the Registrar's Office:
NYU, Iowa State, U of Michigan, U of Texas, U of Oregon.

Applications in University Business Offices:
Iowa State, U of Minnesota, NYU. Payroll, tuition and fees, student loans, inventory, ledgers.

Miscellaneous Administrative Applications:
The University Press (U of Chicago), University Hospital Business Office (U of Michigan), University Extension (Lasalle U), A Central Tabulating Bureau (U of Michigan), Fraternities (U of Pittsburgh).

Applications in Psychology and Educational Research
Ohio State, Columbia, Iowa State, Stanford, Harvard.

Applications in Medical Research and in Hospitals
U of Minnesota, U of Chicago, U of Wisconsin, Harvard

Applications in Legal Research
Yale, U of California

Applications in Agricultural Research
Iowa State, Cornell, U of Tennessee, USDA

Miscellaneous Research Applications
Harvard, Columbia, Brooklyn College, U of Illinois, Fisk U.

Plus tutorials in the use the Automatic Multiplying Punch (U of Michigan) and the Progressive Digit Method (Iowa State).

Columbia Astronomy Professor Wallace Eckert's article, Astronomy (pp.389-396), is the only one that pushes the machines beyond the simple tabulation and bookkeeping they were designed for, and the only article showing any evidence of higher math¹. In fairness, machines that performed multiplication or division were not yet generally available; Eckert, however, had an IBM 601 Multiplying Punch, and a souped-up one at that. Eckert summarizes the earlier work of L.J. Comrie at the British Nautical Almanac Office on "earlier machines" and goes on describe the work in progress at his own lab at Columbia, using "more modern equipment" including an "auxilliary switch box for automatically changing the wiring".

Head measuring
Photo:[103]; click image to enlarge.
Another interesting article is the one on Anthropology by E.A. Hooton of Harvard (pictured at left measuring the large head of ...²), in which a punched-card database recording 125 facts about each of 17,000 criminals from ten states is used to correlate criminal offenses versus broad sociophysical characterstics such as race and nationality, and detailed ones such as shape of head, shape of nose, shape and color of eyes, size and extension of lips, size and shape of ear lobes, color of skin, color and texture of hair, amount of body hair, "swarthiness", and so on. "The outcome of the research was a conclusive demonstration that, by taking a sufficient number of peculiarities of the robber group in combination and selecting all of the individuals who possessed that combination, it was possible to pick out a type which was 100 per cent robber. At the same time it was demonstrated that only one robber out of 414 showed this complete and exclusive type combination. It was therefore apparent that morphological type combinations were of no practical use in determining the offenses of criminals, so far as our particular data was concerned." Thus among the many other valuable contributions of the punched-card method can be counted the demise of phrenology and anthropometrics as predictors of human behavior!
1.  One other article, by H.C. Carter of the U of Michigan, describes the use of a multiplying punch to accumulate sums of products and squares.
2.  I believe it is the wrestler Tor Johnsson, "The Swedish Angel", who, coincidentally was managed for a time by a rakish ne'er-do-well Russian emigre named Mischa who was courting my grandmother when I was a kid...
Columbia University Computing History Frank da Cruz / This page created: 2 August 2004 Last update: 2 April 2021