September 13, 1918 – January 25, 2010
Dr. Herbert R.J. Grosch
, “A computer pioneer who managed
important space and technology projects, Grosch is respected for
discovering and describing the relationship between speed and cost of
Fellows Award Citation, 1995
“Years ago I thought I was the brightest guy in the world. Then I met
von Neumann and Feynman. In recent decades I've settled for greatest
Then I found Bemer's sites!!
Best to just shoot for crankiest? Or at least, crankiest
— Herb Grosch, 26 November 2003
From Herb's 1991 autobiography:
“I was made into a computer fifty years
ago. I was the second scientist ever hired by IBM, and I watched the Watsons
on Olympus, and Bill Norris and Ken Olsen and Gene Amdahl, and a thousand
great commercial and academic figures. Later, for three amusing years, I was
the top Federal computer honcho, and escaped to be editor of the major trade
newspaper. I was a charter member of the world's first and largest
professional computer society, and the first national president ever elected
by membership petition. I worked in Monaco and Switzerland and the
Netherlands when I was too controversial to be employable in the U.S., and I
consulted for the largest and best Japanese computer company...”
Herb is featured on this site because, with Wallace
Eckert, he was one of the principal instigators of automated machine
computing and computer science at Columbia University as an IBM Watson Lab scientist and Columbia faculty
member, 1945-1950. In 2003 Herb noticed my history
and we began a voluminous correspondence that lasted until his death; he has
made countless contributions to this site as you can see by putting
"grosch" in the search box on the main history
page (or just click here).
Herb was a human encyclopedia; not only had he been everywhere and
done everything, he remembered every detail: people, machines, events,
organizations, programming techniques from the dark ages, every IBM machine
and model over a span of half a century. He was generous and candid with
his knowledge, which he passed on with a self-effacing sense of humor, and,
it must be said, he was a deep and sincere appreciator of women, a rare
quality even to this day in persons of his gender. As can be seen from his
autobiography, he led an extraordinarily full
life, and was remarkably open about his failings. Click on the image strip
at the top to see a gallery of personal photos. Organizing and labeling
these (and many others not yet shown) was a project he wasn't able to
- US Naval Observatory, 1941.
- PhD, Astronomy, University of Michigan, 1942.
- Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at
Columbia University, 1945-1951.
- Charter Member, Association for Computing
Machinery (ACM), 1947.
- Giver, Grosch's Law (1950): "Computing power increases as the
square of the cost."
- Project WHIRLWIND, MIT, 1951.
- President, American Rocket
Society (now American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics), 1951.
- Lecturer, Cavendish Laboratory,
Cambridge, UK, 1954.
- First Manager of IBM's Space Program, 1958-59.
- Contributing Editor, DATAMATION, 1959-63.
National Bureau of Standards Center for Computer Sciences and Technology
(now NIST Information Technology
- Fellow, British Computer Society
(now The Chartered Institute for IT), 1959.
- Editor, Computerworld,
1973-76 (26 Jul 1967 V1#2 COVER).
- President, Association for Computing
- Professor, Columbia University (1946-51),
Arizona State College (now University) (1956), Boston U (1972), NMSU Las Cruces
(1994), UNLV Las Vegas (Distinguished, 2002),
Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology,
University of Toronto, (2003-2008). At Columbia, Grosch designed and
taught one of the world's first computer science courses,
Numerical Methods, beginning in 1946.
- Maxwell, Allan D. and H.R.J. Grosch, "Elements and Ephemeris of Delaporte
Object 1936 CA", Publications of the Observatory of the University of
Michigan, Vol.6, No.11 (1937).
- Grosch, H.R.J., Integration Orbit and Mean Elements of
Jupiter's Eighth Satellite, Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Michigan (April 1942).
- Grosch, H.R.J., and J.E. Willis, "Positions of Pluto",
Astronomical Journal, Vol.50, No.14 (June 1942), pp.14-15.
- Grosch, H.R.J., "Ray Tracing on IBM Punched Card Equipment",
Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol.35, 803A (1945).
- Grosch, H.R.J., Bibliography on the Use of IBM Machines in
Scientific Research, Statistics, and Education, IBM (1945).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "Harmonic Analysis by the Use of Progressive Digiting",
Proceedings of the 1946 Research Forum, IBM (1946).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "The Orbit of the Eighth Satellite of Jupiter",
Astronomical Journal, Vol.53, No.180 (1948) (a condensed
published form of Grosch's 1942 Ph.D. thesis).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "Ray Tracing with the IBM Selective Sequence Electronic
Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol.39, 1059A (1949).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "Multiplication of Small Matrices", IBM, New York
(1 Jun 1949).
- Grosch, H.R.J., (ed.), Proceedings of the 1948 Scientific
Computation Forum, IBM (1950).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "The Use of Optimum Interval Mathematical Tables",
Proceedings of the 1948 Scientific Computation Forum, IBM (1950).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "Bibliography on Chebyshev Polynomials and Their Use as
Optimum Approximation Functions", Proeceedings of the 1949 Scientific
Computation Seminar, IBM (1951).
- Grosch, H.R.J., "A New Level of Instruction in Celestial Mechanics",
Astronomical Journal, Vol.63 (1958).
- Grosch, H.R.J, Computer: Bit Slices of A Life (first edition),
Third Millenium Books (1991).
(Verified 25 August
- Olley, Allan, "The
Grosch Centenary: Revisiting Grosch's Law", Livejournal.com, 13
[C.1 Panel |
Computing Economies: Revisiting Grosch's Law,
10th Annual SIGCIS Conference, St. Louis MO, 14 October 2014].
Herb's Color Slides, 1947-1982
away kid you bother me, Allan Olley, 21 January 2011 (IT History
for Computing Machinery Obituary, January 29, 2010.
Grosch, IT History Society, Paul Ceruzzi (2010).
Bit Slices from a Life, 3rd Edition (2003, full text online).
- Herbert Reuben
John Grosch, IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneers (1995).
- Kleine Planeten (1947).
- IBM 1948 Scientific
Messerschmitt Kabinenroller (und andere Kleinwagen) (1954 photo by Herb)
- Brennan, J.F., The IBM Watson Laboratory at Columbia
University: A History, IBM (1970).
- Herb Grosch
Papers (Smithsonian Institution)
Conversation with Herbert R.J. Grosch
(ACM Ubiquity, December 2001).
Neumann versus Watson Sr. (Herb Grosch ACM Lecture, January 2003).
- Gardner, W. David,
Grosch's Law Going Strong At 87",
TechWeb News, 12 April 2005.
- Grosch, H.R.J,
of the Watson Scientific Laboratory, 1945-1950",
The Computer Museum Report,
Vol.4 (Spring 1983)
Pioneers video (Herb Grosch at minute 43).
by Richard R. Mertz, Smithsonian Institution:
15, 1970 (PDF, 36 pages).
August 24, 1970 (PDF, 66 pages).
August 26, 1970 (PDF, 72 pages).
August 28, 1970 (PDF, 46 pages).
- November 9, 1970 (PDF, 47 pages).
March 30, 1971 (PDF, 129 pages).
May 7, 1971 (PDF, 78 pages).
- Herb Grosch and friend with IBM 701 (1956).
- Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at
Columbia University 1945-1970.
- Columbia University Computing History
(the sections from 1945-1950).
Translations of this
page courtesy of...