May 27, 1958
A curricular innovation came to public notice in an article in The New York Times about Dr. Frederick P. Brooks’s Mathematics 385b, Principles of Digital Computation, in its second year. Dr. Brooks, an International Business Machines Company employee, devised the course at the suggestion of Jane Johnson ‘35, the head of Vassar’s Vocational Bureau. Several of his 12 students in the Class of 1957 were employed by firms such as I.B.M., General Electric and Westinghouse.
The class in 1958 consisted of five registered students, one student auditor and Professor of Mathematics Abba Newton. “Since I’m a math major and programming is one job possibility for me,” said Marcia Appeltoft ’58, “I wanted to find out before applying for such a position whether I would like this type of work.” Another senior, zoology major Anne Lunning, thought the course would be useful “in any future work, particularly correlating biology and math.”
Dr. Brooks’s services were donated to the college by I. B. M. as was the Model 650 magnetic drum computer used by the class. When his I. B. M. duties required it, the class was taught by his wife, physicist Nancy Greenwood Brooks.