Preston C. Hammer
Preston Clarence Hammer (October 12, 1913 – April 14, 1986) was
an American mathematician, computer scientist, and educator. He
taught at Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin, Penn
State, and Grand Valley State Colleges. At Penn (1965 – about
1974) he was chair of the
newly formed Computer Science department. He worked at Lockheed in
the 1940s and at Los Alamos
National Laboratories in the 1950s. He was a champion of hands-on
education in computing, clashing with academics who preferred a
curriculum treating the subject in a purely academic manner.
October 12, 1913: Born Rockford, Michigan
degree (magna cum laude) from the Kalamazoo College
1935: masters degree from the University of Michigan
1938: Ohio State University doctoral dissertation
Projective Geometries Over A Pseudo-Field.
1939: Ph.D. The Ohio State University.
(math genealogy project) [conflicts with Parter and OSC,
who say PhD 1938]
Instructor in Mathematics, University of Michigan
- Married Hilda Knight, August 6 1939 [from Centre Daily Times obit]
1940-47 [or 48]: Oregon State College.
"PRESTON CLARENCE HAMMER, Ph.D., Associate Professor of
Mathematics. A.B. (1934), Kalamazoo College; A.B.[sic; actually masters] (1935),
Michigan; Ph.D. (1938), Ohio State."
(Oregon State College catalog)
1944-46: Lockheed (California) [KK]
1947-48: "At Oregon State since 1940. On leave of absence."
1947-52: Los Alamos [PHM]
as "Staff Member" at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.
IBM Scientific Computation Forum.
1949: was at Los Alamos
IBM Computation Seminar 1949 - warning, big, slow download)
1951: was at Los Alamos
(Note: The first stored-program computer at Los Alamos was the MANIAC,
which didn't come on line until March 1952, a few months before PCH
left Los Alamos for Wisconsin. I've found no evidence
that PCH programmed it but it's possible he did. His computation experience from 1947 to
1951 seems to have been with the
IBM CPC and its predecessor(s); see
Akera's book. Parter says "the development of computation at Los Alamos
was placed in another group during the summer of 1951" and that Wisconsin
"lured" PCH away from Los Alamos - but that wasn't until fall of 1952.)
1952–65 U of Wisconsin, Madison (Mathematics 52-62; on leave 62-63;
63-64 Numerical Analysis; 64-65 Computer Science)
1952: U of Wisconsin: "Preston C. Hammer appointed associate professor of mathematics
for the academic year 1952-53; salary $7,500 for the academic year"
(U of Wisconsin)
1952-1964: University of Wisconsin
[some confusion over departure year; Parter says 1965.]
(Note: See Wikipedia article on the WISC computer. Designed by Gene Amdahl 1951,
operational in 1954, "the first digital computer in the state".
PCH must have had some association with this project.)
1955: Director, Numerical Analysis Laboratory, U Wisconsin Madison
"Professor Hammer now has the ranking of professor of
mathematics at University of Wisconsin." (Kalamazoo College
"1957: Consultant to Sandia Corp., Los Alamos
Sci. Laboratory; Reviewer for Math. Reviews."
Honors, positions and publications of members,
(Wisconsin Academy review, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1957)
1959-60 Sabbatical in Zurich, Switzerland [KK]
1961: According to Parter: "He went to the administration and
created the department of numerical analysis in September 1961."
[The CS department web site says 1963, so this claim is perplexing.]
1962: Left U Wisc math dept? (see Wisconsin Math web site) - apparently he was still with
the department in 1962-63, but on leave.
1962-63: on leave [in San Diego] for the academic year
(see also here)
- 1963: U Wisc Dept of Numerical Analysis started
[disagrees with Parter, who says 1961 and gives details]
- 1964: U Wisc Computer Science department formed (formerly Numerical Analysis)
June 1965: left Wisconsin
1965-73 at Penn State (see
"Computer science classes were first offered at Penn State in 1964; two years later in 1966, the Computer Science Department was created under Preston C. Hammer."
1967: at Penn State (see
1968: Penn State
'The weekly noon happening today in the Memorial Lounge of
Eisenhower Chapel, The Creative Edge, presents,
the Department of Computer Science's own Preston C. Hammer
in discussion of "Information and Communication."'
1972: Chairman of Penn CS department? (google search)
1972-73: on sabbatical from Penn State
1973-74: don't know.
Grand Valley State Colleges: "Preston Hammer (Ph.D. 1939 Ohio State University) 1974 - 1978 Highest Rank: Professor, 1974"
1978: Retired (I presume) at age 65.
died April 1986
(also Klir obit)
died 14 April 1986
(according to here)
Wiebe E Bijker et al.,
Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary
Perspectives, MIT Press, 2005, page 80
"At Los Alamos in the '50s someone would get an idea and go down the
hall and get Preston Hammer to put it on the computer and six weeks
later you get printouts and find out whether the guess was right."
Oral history - Ted Taylor 1950-53 - fission bomb [? I think
fusion, not fission] - CPC
"The head of the computer group was Preston Hammer."
Oral history - Roger B. Lazarus - 1950s
"I thought that Carson Mark relieved Preston Hammer from his post as
head of the computing group since they had a personal conflict."
Oral history - Cuthbert C. Hurd 1950s
"And there's one prior name who was involved -- Preston Hammer -- and
a tall Ph.D. who wore glasses, became involved in an altercation of
some kind and they both left."
Oral history - Enders Robinson Wisconsin 1958
"Professor predicts conputer [sic] future."
The Daily Cardinal, Madison, Wisconsin, 21 May 1964, pages 4–5.
"Numerical analysis department expands."
The Daily Cardinal, Madison, Wisconsin, 21 May 1964, page 5.
"Another evidence of its growth is the split of the
N.A. department into two areas - the Computer Science Department
[under Hammer] and the University of Wisconsin Computing Center."
Oral history - Mary Ellen Rudin Wisconsin period
A Personal History of the Department of Computer Sciences [at University of
Wisconsin]. Undated web page.
24 Feb 1972, Daily Collegian, Penn State.
'Preston C. Hammer
will speak on 'Creativity" at 8 p.m. Thursday in
Daily Collegian (?), June 1 1973
"Coffman replaced Bruce H. Barnes, who served as acting in the
absence of Preston C. Hammer, computer science director for seven
years. Hammer, on sabbatical Fall and Winter terms [1972-73], was eased out of
his job as it passed from one acting director to another."
"Professors see trouble in department shake-up."
The Daily Collegian, 17 January 1973.
"Penn State is accredited with having
one of the best, if not
the best, computer
science departments in the nation.
developed, largely through the efforts of Hammer, a highly sophisticated undergraduate degree program which
enables students to find work with a
Deaths - Preston Hammer.
Centre Daily Times (Penn State), 14 April 1986.
- George J. Klir.
International Journal of General Systems 18:283-285, 1991.
The editorial features a long overdue obituary of PCH,
"a great scholar and a good human being."
"During his long academic career, lasting 49 years, he has
been with the
University of Michigan,
Oregon State College,
University of Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania State University, and
[Grand Valley State Colleges].
He has also worked for
extended periods for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and the
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. ..."
The Mathematics Genealogy Project lists
and 372 'descendants'.
All students graduated from Wisconsin in the period 1956-66.
For more juicy material from Penn State: google search for "preston hammer site:psu.edu"
[Penn seems to have hidden its archives since I wrote that - darnit]
1-2 Jul 1974, Computer Science Board panel (with Perlis, Feigenbaum)
(link is dead now, sorry)
Seminar at Grand Valley state colleges/university, Oct. 28 1981. Rehabilitation of Concepts in Mathematics.
Chart of elemental mathematics.
In Advances in Mathematical Systems Theory (q.v.)
Language, approximation, and extended topologies.
In I. Rauch and C. T. Scott (eds.), Approaches in Linguistic
Methodology, University of Wisconsin Press, 1967.
In Advances in Mathematical Systems Theory,
Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1969.
In Advances in Mathematical Systems Theory,
Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1969.
Organization of mathematical systems.
Chapter VI-3, pages 985 ff. of
Progress of Cybernetics: Cybernetics and natural
sciences. Cybernetics and the social sciences.
Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1970.
Also(?) published by
World Organisation of General Systems and Cybernetics.
(Thanks to Han de Bruijn for bringing this to my attention.)
Mathematics and systems theory.
In Trends in General Systems Theory,
edited by G. J. Klir, John Wiley, New York, 1972, pp. 408-433.
References to PCH
Not very many that I could find. Here are a couple but I'm sure there
are more. (-- microsoft seems to have a few hundred of them!)
Topological Foundations of Cognitive Science, in C. Eschenbach,
C. Habel and B. Smith (eds.), Topological Foundations of Cognitive
Science, Hamburg: Graduiertenkolleg Kognitionswissenschaft, 1994.
R.A. King, Mr T.C. Phipps.
Shannon, TESPAR and approximation strategies.
Computers & Security
- Stadler B.M.R., Stadler P.F.
The Topology of Evolutionary Biology.
In: Ciobanu G., Rozenberg G. (eds), Modelling in Molecular
Biology. Natural Computing Series. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2004.
- de Bruijn, Han.
Undated web page, in Dutch.
Son of Adam and Ada Zimmerman Hammer
Children: Phoebe McDonald, Frances Stevenson, Nick Hammer, Kathryn
Kerman, Arthur Hammer [from the Centre Daily Times obit]
Note about this page
This page was assembled by Jonathan Rees in late 2012, with a few
additions since then. Obviously this is just some
notes thrown together; perhaps with some TLC they could be stitched together
into a coherent narrative.
Why did I do this? I met PCH around 1976 and was impressed and
amused by his
eccentric, rebellious manner. In 2012, when cleaning out a file
cabinet, I came across some reprints he had given me, and realized I had a
few things in common with him. I got to wondering what his story was
and spent a day trawling the web for information about him.
I was thinking of creating a Wikipedia page. I
think he qualifies as notable and the Parter and Klir articles provide
enough general information to satisfy Wikipedia notability rules. Creating the
article is mainly a matter of the grueling work required to format the
article and references correctly.
Photos kindly provided by Arthur K. Hammer - many thanks. All rights reserved.
Thanks to various family members and admirers for their contributions.
I have the following reference from somewhere but have failed to track
Bibliography on Color Blindness.
University of Wisconsin, Numerical Analysis Laboratory, 1960.