Kathleen Antonelli
Programmer
Kathleen Antonelli
Kathleen "Kay" McNulty Mauchly Antonelli was one of the six original programmers of the ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic digital computer.
Biography
Kathleen Antonelli's personal information overview.
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2006
    Age 85
    Died in 2006.
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  • 1997
    Age 76
    She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 1997 along with the other original ENIAC programmers, and she accepted the induction of John Mauchly into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio in 2002. Kay died from cancer in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania on April 20, 2006 at the age of 85.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1948
    Age 27
    Resigning her post at Aberdeen, and without the blessing of her Irish Catholic parents, she married him in 1948.
    More Details Hide Details They lived initially in his row house on St. Mark's Street near the University of Pennsylvania, and later in a large farmhouse called Little Linden in Ambler, Pennsylvania. With Mauchly, Kay had five children. She later worked on the software design for later computers including the BINAC and UNIVAC I computers whose hardware was designed by her husband. John Mauchly died in 1980 following several bouts of illness and recoveries, and she married photographer Severo Antonelli in 1985. After a long struggle with Parkinson's disease, her second husband died in 1996; Kay had suffered a heart attack while caring for him, but made a full recovery. Following Mauchly's death, Kay carried on the legacy of the ENIAC pioneers by authoring articles, giving talks (frequently along with Jean Bartik, with whom she remained lifelong friends), and making herself available for interviews with reporters and researchers.
  • 1947
    Age 26
    Kay McNulty was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground's Ballistics Research Laboratory along with the ENIAC when it was moved there in mid-1947.
    More Details Hide Details She was joined by Ruth Lichterman and Fran Bilas, but the other three women began families or started other jobs, preferring to stay in Philadelphia rather than relocate to the remote Aberdeen and live an Army base life. ENIAC co-inventor John Mauchly, who had since departed his post as a professor at the Moore School to found his own computer company along with Presper Eckert, made frequent trips to Washington, D.C. during this period, and stopped in to check up on the ENIAC in Aberdeen. Mauchly had already hired Betty Jean Jennings (who had married and now went by Jean Bartik) and Betty Snyder (now called Betty Holberton) and had hoped to attract Kay to his fledgling company as well. But Mauchly's wife had died in a September 1946 drowning accident, and as a recent widower with two children, Mauchly instead proposed to Kay, who was almost 14 years his junior.
  • 1945
    Age 24
    When Greenie declined to go to Aberdeen for training because she had a nice apartment in West Philadelphia and a 1st alternate refused to cut short a vacation in Missouri, Betty Jean Jennings, the 2nd alternate, got the job, and between June and August 1945 they received training at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in the IBM punched card equipment that was to be used as the I/O for the ENIAC. (Later, Kay's college schoolmate and fellow computer Fran Bilas would join the team of ENIAC programmers at the Moore School, though she did not attend the initial training at Aberdeen.) The computer could complete the same ballistics calculations described above in about 10 seconds, but it would often take one or two days to set the computer up for a new set of problems, via plugs and switches.
    More Details Hide Details It was the women's responsibility to determine the sequence of steps required to complete the calculations for each problem and set up the ENIAC according; early on, they consulted with ENIAC engineers such as Arthur Burks to determine how the ENIAC could be programmed. Because the ENIAC was a classified project, the programmers were not at first allowed into the room to see the machine, but they were given access to blueprints from which to work out programs in an adjacent room. Programming the ENIAC involved discretising the differential equations involved in a trajectory problem to the precision allowed by the ENIAC and calculating the route to the appropriate bank of electronics in parallel progression, with each instruction having to reach the correct location in time to within 1/5,000th of a second. Having devised a program on paper, the women were allowed into the ENIAC room to physically program the machine.
    In June 1945, Kay was selected to be one of its first programmers, along with several other women from the computer corps: Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, and Ruth Lichterman, and a fifth computer named Helen Greenman (nicknamed "Greenie").
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  • 1942
    Age 21
    She graduated with a degree in mathematics in June 1942, one of only a few mathematics majors out of a class of 92 women.
    More Details Hide Details During her third year of college, Kathleen looking for relevant jobs, knowing that she wanted to work in mathematics but did not want to be a school teacher. She learned that insurance companies' actuarial positions required a master's degree; therefore, feeling that business training would make her more employable, she took as many business courses as her college schedule would permit: accounting, money and banking, business law, economics, and statistics. A week or two after graduating, she happened to see a US Civil Service ad in The Philadelphia Inquirer looking for women with degrees in mathematics. During World War II, the US Army was hiring women to calculate bullet and missile trajectories at Ballistic Research Laboratory, which had been established at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland, with staff from both the Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She immediately called her two fellow math majors, Frances Bilas and Josephine Benson about the ad. Benson couldn't meet up with them, so Kathleen and Fran met in Philadelphia one morning in June 1942 for an interview in a building on South Broad Street (likely the Union League of Philadelphia Building). One week later, they were both hired as human "computers" at a pay grade of SP-4, a subprofessional civil service grade. The starting pay was $1620 annually. Kathleen stated the pay was "very good at the time".
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1921
    Age 0
    She was born Kathleen Rita McNulty in the small village of Creeslough in the Gaeltacht area (Irish-speaking region) of County Donegal, Ireland on February 12, 1921 during the Irish War of Independence.
    More Details Hide Details On the night of her birth, her father, James McNulty, who was an Irish Republican Army training officer, was arrested and imprisoned in Derry Gaol for two years. On his release, the family emigrated to the United States in October, 1924 and settled in Pennsylvania where James established a successful stonemasonry business. At the time, Kathleen was unable to speak any English, only Irish; she would remember prayers in Irish for the rest of her life. She attended parochial grade school in Chestnut Hill and Hallahan Catholic Girls High School in Philadelphia. In high school, she had taken a year of algebra, a year of plane geometry, a second year of algebra, and a year of trigonometry and solid geometry. After graduating high school, she enrolled in Chestnut Hill College for Women. During her studies, she took every mathematics course offered, including spherical trigonometry, differential calculus, projective geometry, partial differential equations, and statistics.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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