## Engineering 281 - Columbia University

In Fall 1946, Columbia University began to offer regular, graduate,
for-credit academic courses in computing taught by staff members of the
Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory who also
had faculty appointments. The first two courses were
Wallace Eckert's Astronomy 111-112, Machine Methods,
and Herb Grosch's Engineering 281, Numerical
Methods. The Machine Method course listings are reproduced on the
SSEC page. Here's the Engineering 281 description
from a 1951 bulletin:

**Engineering 281—Numerican methods.**
3 points Winter Session.

` `Tu. Th.4:10-5:25. 232 Pupin.

` `Use and construction of univariate and
multivariate mathematical tables. Interpolation with uniform and non-uniform
intervals. Reciprocal differences and other approximation methods.
Simultaneous linear equations and determinants. Real and complex matrix
calculations. Least squares solutions. Harmonic analysis. Accumulation of
errors in extended calculations.

` `This course is designed to acquaint research
students in science with the theory and practice of computation; special
reference will be made to methods useful with recently developed calculating
equipment. Examples will be drawn from the fields of engineering and
physical science.

` `Prerequisite: A year's work in mathematics
beyond calculus; permission of instructor required.

Engineering 281 was designed by Herb Grosch, who taught it from 1946 to
1950. After that it was given by Professor Eckert through 1956-57, and then
by Ken King. Here is Herb's Engineering 281 reading list for 1950 (CLICK
image to magnify and sharpen):

Students could find copies of these works in the
116th Street reference library.

*References:*

- Grosch, Herbert R.J., Computer: Bit
Slices from a Life, Third Edition, 2003 (in manuscript). First
edition published by Third Millenium Books, Novato CA (1991), ISBN
0-88733-085, Pages 100-101.
- Columbia University Bulletin, Announcement of the Watson Scientific
Computing Laboratory and a Program of Study in Applied Methematics,
various years, plus bulletins of the Graduate Faculties and School of
Engineering.
- Eckert, Wallace J., ENGINEERING 821 - Numerical Methods, Lecture notes,
Spring 1951, Winter 1954 (approx. 100 pages, manuscript, partially
handwritten). The notes show that as late as 1954, much of the lab work was
done on the 602-A Calculating Punch, as well as sorters, collators, and
gang punches. I expect that within a year or
two, the IBM 650 was used.

*Last Updated:*
Mon Apr 26 12:24:14 2004

Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu /
Columbia University Computing History