Arthur Burks Collection

Arthur Burks Collection

Arthur BurksArthur W. Burks, Ph.D., (1915 – 2008) was a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. Burks and his wife Alice helped build and program the world’s first general purpose electronic computer, ENIAC. His wife, Alice (1920 –    ), was a “computer” at the Moore School where the ENIAC was built, performing elaborate calculations by hand prior to the machine’s introduction. Together Arthur and Alice wrote about the ENIAC.

Burks edited the final two volumes of Harvard’s Collected Papers of C.S. Peirce; the eighth and final volume includes the first comprehensive bibliography of Peirce’s publications. The Arthur W. Burks Collection includes books, several original units of ENIAC, and other artifacts from ENIAC.

Burks was one of the principal team members that designed the ENIAC from its beginning in 1943 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering. He orchestrated a public demonstration of the ENIAC when its veil of military secrecy was officially lifted in 1946. The ENIAC served the military and various members of the scientific community until 1955 when it was turned off for the last time—already being surpassed in functionality and speed by the rapid rise of a new generation of computers. Most of the ENIAC went to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. where it is on display. Another large portion went to the West Point military college. Burks eventually rescued four panels from rusting away in storage somewhere near Aberdeen, Maryland. Those panels have been restored and are presently on display at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where Burks was professor emeritus of philosophy and electrical engineering. Over his long career, Arthur Burks received numerous honors and has published numerous articles on computing and computing history.

Burks has general connections to Indiana and a specific connection to IUPUI. He spent much of his early years in Indiana with his grandparents and graduated from DePauw University in 1936. At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he earned his PhD in Philosophy in 1941, Burks specialized in the logic of Charles Peirce and was an executive consultant to the Peirce Project at IUPUI.

ENIAC

  • The ENIAC Project is an education, preservation, and access initiative that began in 1998 when Arthur and Alice Burks, pioneers in the history of computing, donated a collection of artifacts and documents to the Peirce Project.