Arthur W. Burks papers: 1930-1986 (bulk 1950-1984)
Summary Information
Title: Arthur W. Burks papers
Creator: Burks, Arthur W. (Arthur Walter), 1915-
Dates: 1930-1986 (Majority of material found within 1950-1984)
Extent: 4.5 linear feet
Abstract:
Professor of philosophy and of computer and communication sciences at the University of Michigan; include papers, appointment books, and topical files relating to his professional interests; also photographs.
Call number: 90185 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by: Beth Lindblom, 1990

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated in May 1990 by Arthur W. Burks (Donor No. 7063).

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Arthur W. Burks Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is substantially composed of two series, Papers, 1930-1984 and Topical Files, 1950-1986. Biographical materials and one folder of photographs have been placed at the beginning of the collection.


Biography

Arthur W. Burks, well known as one of the principal designers and a joint inventor of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) in the 1940s, was born on October 13, 1915, in Duluth, Minnesota. He received his B.A. in mathematics from DePauw University in 1936, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in 1937 and 1941, both in philosophy from the University of Michigan. Throughout his career, Professor Burks pursued both philosophy and computer science, finding many parallels between the two fields.

After earning his Ph.D., Burks found that academic positions in philosophy were scarce at the time, so he took a government course in electrical engineering at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He soon became an instructor and research engineer at the Moore School, where from June 1943 to February 1946 he worked with John Maunchly and J. Presper Eckert on the research, development, design, and construction of the ENIAC, the first large-scale general-purpose electronic digital computer. His primary responsibility was the ENIAC's multiplier. The ENIAC's original purpose was to speed up the calculations needed to create firing tables, which showed gunners how to aim their weapons. At the time these calculations were done by hand, by mathematicians who were known as "computers" (in fact, Burks' wife, Alice, whom he married in 1943, was one of these mathematicians at the Moore School). Since ENIAC was not completed until 1946, it was not able to contribute much to the war effort, but it did usher in a new era in computation.

After World War II, Burks maintained his dual interest in philosophy and computers. While still at the Moore School, he worked part-time as an instructor of philosophy at Swarthmore College during 1945 and 1946. He spent some time in early 1946 (as well as the summers of 1947 and 1948) at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where he worked with John von Neumann and Herman Goldstine on developing the logical design of an electronic digital computer. The basic design they produced became the prototype for many computers built by universities, government research units and IBM.

Burks joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan in 1946 as an assistant professor, becoming associate professor in 1948 and professor in 1954. In 1956 he organized and became the director of the Logic of Computers Group at the University of Michigan. This group was supported by government contracts and conducted research in automata theory, adaptive systems, the interactive use of digital computers, and the simulation of natural systems. In 1957 Burks and a colleague started a graduate program in Computer and Communication Sciences at Michigan, which became a department in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts in 1967. Burks served as the department's chairman from 1967 to 1971. In 1970 Burks received the University of Michigan Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, and in 1978 he was named the Henry Russel Lecturer, the highest honor the university can bestow upon a senior faculty member.

Professor Burks' career also included a variety of consulting and visiting professor assignments. He served as a consultant with the Burroughs Corporation (1949-1954), directing a research group which worked on the logical design of digital computers for data processing, on user-oriented programming languages and programs to translate them into machine language, and on automata theory. He also served as a consultant to the Argonne National Laboratory (1950-1951), helping to design the ORACLE computer. From July 1965 to December 1966, Burks was a visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, and during the 1971-72 school year he held a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

Professor Burks was particularly interested in Charles Sanders Peirce, founder of the philosophical doctrine of pragmatism, and edited two volumes of Peirce's papers while a research associate in philosophy at Harvard University in 1955. In 1960, as a visiting professor in applied mathematics at the University of Illinois, Burks completed and edited John von Neumann's papers on self-reproducing cellular automata. Professor Burks served as president of the American Philosophical Association (1972-1973) and of the Philosophy of Science Association (1975-1977). He also published numerous articles on the subjects of computers and philosophy, as well as a book Chance, Cause, Reason, in 1977. He and his wife, Alice R. Burks, published two definitive works in the history of computing: a long article, "The ENIAC: First General-Purpose Electronic Computer," in 1981, and a book, The First Electronic Computer: The Atanasoff Story, in 1988 (The University of Michigan Press).


Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • Computers.
  • Computers.
  • Photographs.
  • Burks, Arthur W. (Arthur Walter), 1915-2008.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Computer and Communication Sciences.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Philosophy.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
  • Burks, Arthur W. (Arthur Walter), 1915-2008.
  • University of Michigan -- Faculty.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Biographical materials [series]
Box   1  
Vitas, clippings, etc
 
Photographs 1932-1983 [series]

The Photographs series consists of one folder of portraits and photographs of Burks at various meetings.

Box   1  
Portraits of Arthur Burks and group photos.
 
Papers 1930-1984 [series]

The Papers series is arranged chronologically, and consists primarily of correspondence with colleagues and others, but also include other materials, such as articles, awards and speeches. Unfortunately, few materials dated prior to 1950 are included, therefore there is no material dealing with Burks' work on the ENIAC. Misfiling (items filed in the wrong year) has been corrected when possible. Burks' appointment books for the years 1950 to 1977 are located at the end of this series.

Box   1  
1930-1938
Box   1  
1939-1950
Box   1  
1951-1952
Box   1  
1953
Box   1  
1954
Box   1  
1955
Box   1  
1956
Box   1  
1957
Box   1  
1958
Box   1  
1959
Box   1  
1960 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1961 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1962 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1963
Box   1  
1964
Box   1  
1965 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1966
Box   1  
1967 (2 folders)
Box   1  
1968 (3 folders)
Box   2  
1969 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1970 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1971 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1972 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1973 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1974 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1975 (3 folders)
Box   2  
1976 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1977 (2 folders)
Box   2  
1978 (3 folders)
Box   2  
1979 (3 folders)
 
1980
Box   2  
Folder 1
Box   3  
Folder 2
Box   3  
1981 (2 folders)
Box   3  
1982 (2 folders)
Box   3  
1983 (2 folders)
Box   3  
1984 (2 folders)
 
Appointment books
Box   3  
1950-1955
Box   3  
1956-1962
Box   3  
1963-1968
Box   3  
1969-1973
Box   3  
1974-1977
 
Topical Files 1950-1986 [series]

The Topical Files are arranged alphabetically. The researcher should note that there is considerable overlap between the two series. The Topical Files include some correspondence, and the Papers include some material on topics covered in the topical files. The two types of files reflect Burks' original filing system. Of interest in this series are files detailing Burks' research activities, and several files relating to the Department of Computer and Communication Sciences at Michigan.

Box   3  
Arisbe (Charles Peirce's home) 1974-1977
Box   3  
Articles and speeches 1973-1982
Box   3  
Atomic Energy Commission Computer Advisory Group 1960-1962
Box   3  
Computer Science Pioneer Award 1982-1986
 
Cause, Chance and Reason grants
Box   3  
National Science Foundation 1962-1972
Box   3  
University of Michigan, Rackham School of Graduate Studies 1962-1977
 
Correspondence
Box   3  
Foreign 1967-1976
Box   4  
Lugg, Wang and Uchii 1973-1976
Box   4  
H. Nishio 1974-1975
Box   4  
Nancy Stern 1977-1979
Box   4  
S. Ulam 1971
Box   4  
Digitronics v. the New York Racing Association 1974
Box   4  
ENIAC patent agreements 1964-1965
Box   4  
Fellowship applications 1971
Box   4  
Festschrift for Frankena, Stevenson & Brandt 1978
Box   4  
Freedom and Automata 1977
Box   4  
Gobel letter re: von Neumann, notes 1961-1964
Box   4  
Honeywell v. Sperry Rand (ENIAC case) 1972
Box   4  
India 1966-1968
Box   4  
Indian Institute of Technology 1967-1972
Box   4  
Journal of Computer and System Sciences 1981-1986
Box   4  
Kanpur Indo-American Program Advisory Committee 1967-1968
 
National Science Foundation
Box   4  
History and Philosophy of Science Subcommittee 1978-1979
Box   4  
Modal Logic Support 1979
Box   4  
Peirce editing 1973-1974
 
Philosophy of Science Association
Box   4  
Critical Research Problems Conference 1978
Box   4  
General 1975-1976
Box   4  
Philosophy of Science journal 1972-1975
Box   4  
Polish Logic Machine and Burroughs 5000 1962
Box   4  
Research interests 1975-1980
Box   4  
Research plans 1983-1986
Box   4  
Russel lecture 1978
Box   4  
Sabbaticals/fellowships 1953-1954, 1962-1963
Box   4  
Sabbatical 1978-1979
Box   4  
Statements of accomplishments 1975-1983
Box   4  
Synthese and other journals 1965-1979
Box   4  
Tanner lecture introduction 1980
 
University of Chicago Press
Box   4  
1968-1974
Box   4  
Publicity 1974-1980
Box   4  
University of Illinois Press 1982-1983
 
University of Michigan
 
Computer and Communication Sciences Department
Box   4  
1980
Box   4  
Evaluation 1975-1976
 
Executive Committee
Box   4  
1979
Box   5  
1981-1982
Box   5  
1982-1983
Box   5  
External review committee visit 1980
Box   5  
History
Box   5  
Merger with Computer, Information and Control Engineering (CICE) 1983
Box   5  
Merger with Electrical Engineering Dept. 1986
Box   5  
Review 1973
Box   5  
Self-Evaluation, Supplement 1979
Box   5  
Computer Ethics Subcommittee 1979
Box   5  
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dept., Bylaws 1984
Box   5  
Logic of Computers Group 1962-1978
Box   5  
Niemeyer tenure case 1974-1975
 
Philosophy Department
Box   5  
1978-1984
Box   5  
History
Box   5  
University of Michigan Press 1959-1971
Additional Descriptive Data
Related Material

A related collection held by the Bentley Library is the University of Michigan Logic of Computers Group records.