April 1955 Popular
women's roles and interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering,
mathematics) careers has been a major effort by schools in the last
couple decades in an attempt to 'remove barriers,' both real and perceived,
inhibiting entrance into the fields. There are still many realms of
STEM that women have avoided, but computer programming and mathematics
are examples their representation having seen steady increases. Dr.
Frances Bauer can be seen in this 1955 Popular Science story on Project
Cyclone, which reports on her role programming what was at the time
one of the largest computers in the world. Her work ran the gamut between
civil engineering on bridge projects to predicting missile flight paths
for the military. You might recall the U.S. Navy's
Grace Hopper, who is credited with coining the term "bug"
April 1955 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
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Giant computers solve industry's toughest problems and open new, lucrative
field for women interested in mathematics.
The lady builds bridges and test-flights rockets. Dr. Frances
Bauer feeds data to computer, gets speedy and accurate results.
One of the largest computers in the world. "Project Cyclone"
is the test center for solving three-dimensional problems involved
in the design of aircraft and guided missiles.
The new "Age of Automation"
being ushered in by electronic computers will open up many new technical
and highly remunerative fields to women. As mathematicians who "program"
or "feed" data into the electronic "brains," women will be able to build
bridges and tunnels, design dams for hydroelectric plants, pre-test
the flight of planes, tell automobile manufacturers what is wrong with
next year's models, and maybe even forecast the weather weeks ahead
A number of women have already pioneered in this new
field and are finding that their sex is no barrier to their advancement.
While the machines can make their calculations in minutes, often in
seconds, the human "programming" or breaking down of the problems to
be solved into a series of mathematical formulae so that machines can
"digest" them, may take hours or even days. One of these machines, for
instance, requires 963 instructions to calculate the path of a guided
missile. Once these instructions are received by the computer, it can
perform 1,100,000 mathematical operations in exactly two minutes. A
human would probably require a year to complete the job.
of the women pioneering in this new field is Dr. Frances Bauer, senior
mathematician at Reeves Instrument Corporation, New York City, a subsidiary
of Claude Neon, Inc. She assists her husband. Dr. Louis Bauer, in the
operation of the famed "Project Cyclone," built and operated by Reeves
for the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics. She also serves as a consultant
on industrial problems involving the use of the Reeves Analogue Computers
A Ph.D. from Brown University and a former Research Associate in Aeronautical
Structures at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, petite, blond Frances
Bauer - still in her early thirties - has been called upon in the four
years since she came to Reeves to pre-check the performance of such
deadly guided missiles and military aircraft as the Lark, Regulus, Cutlass,
Project director Dr. Louis Bauer (left) and Hans Meissinger,
assistant, study missile's trajectory while it is computed and
Electronics makes for safety and accuracy as Dr. Bauer watches
the pull out of a dive bomber to determine point of bomb release.
Real rocket tests cost hundreds of thousands of dollars
but the "test flights" performed for the Navy by Dr. Bauer and her colleagues
at "Project Cyclone" cost little and endanger no lives. In one instance
the Navy was advised, as a result of the work at "Project Cyclone,"
not to try to launch certain jet fighters from the deck of a pitching
carrier. The computer proved that they were much too likely to go into
the drink instead of taking off safely.
Recently at Reeves, Dr.
Bauer and her associates were called upon to help solve certain problems
in the building of suspension bridges. On another occasion officials
of the Tennessee Valley Authority presented certain questions on the
operation of TVA's thirty-five dams.
Dr. Bauer, who says there
are already several hundred women in this field, advises young women
interested in mathematics who are entering college this fall and others
already employed but who are looking for wider horizons, to investigate
this profession of playing handmaiden to an electronic "brain." Graduate
work in mathematics is advisable but not necessary. Girls with a B.A.
may expect to start at $65 to $75 per week. Those with an M.A. may get
$85 to $100, while the PhDs will command around $125 weekly in the industrial
market. Fully qualified professionals in the field may expect anywhere
from $8,000 to $12,000 per year and reportedly there are already a few
women computer experts in the $25,000 per year bracket. Who said figures
October 17, 2013