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This Day in Math History: Association of Computing Machinery Founded, September 15, 1947

Check out 10 STEM professionals using computers to change the world!

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s largest educational and scientific society, was founded at a meeting of industry leaders at Columbia University on September 15, 1947. The association’s mission was, and still is, to unite computing educators, researchers, and other professionals who use computers and are interested in “advancing computing as a science and a profession.”

In honor of this day in math history, here are 10 mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists, and doctors who are using computers to change the world.

1. Steve “Woz” Wozniak, Co-Inventor of Apple Computer
(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology that changed the world: Stephen Gary Wozniak, nicknamed “Woz,” designed and built the first personal computer in his garage in 1976. The Apple I kit, which sold for $666.66, included a 6502 8-bit processor and 4 kilobytes of memory, which could be expanded to 8 or 48 kilobytes using expansion cards. It had a fully assembled circuit board, but the kit still required a power supply, display, keyboard, and case to be operational. Wozniak’s college buddy Steve Jobs had the idea to sell the Apple I. Jobs sold his VW bug and Woz sold his HP-65 calculator to finance its creation.

2. Grace Hopper, Military Leader, Mathematician, Computer Programmer


(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology that at changed the world: Hopper was a computer genius and navel officer who died in 1992 at age 86. She is credited with inventing the first computer language compiler, which led to the invention of the Common Business Oriented Language, or COBOL, a widely adapted language that would be used around the world. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists.

3. Bonnie Berger, Head of the Computation and Biology Group at MIT
(Graphic: video screenshot http://www.acm.org/)

(Photo credit: ACM)

The technology that changed the world: Mathematician Bonnie Berger, head of the Computation and Biology group at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Lab, is using computers to analyze biological and biomedical data, and discover patterns that lead to better understanding diseases and other biological processes.

Computational biologists analyze biological and biomedical data to support or replace laboratory procedures. The goal: more accurate answers at a greatly reduced cost. In the past two decades, there has been unprecedented technological progress in technologies that generate biological data, leading to an explosion of data. While more data means greater insights into diseases, basic biology, and even human migration patterns, researchers are having trouble analyzing these massive datasets.

4. Anastasia Ailamaki, Raw Data Management


(Photo credit: ACM)

The technology that changed the world: Anastasia Ailamaki, Professor of Computer Science at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausaune in Switzerland, is also the CEO and co-founder of RAW Labs SA, a Switzerland-based startup focusing on management of the massive amounts of raw data stored in the cloud.

RAW Labs works with neuroscientists, astronomers, and even an organization trying to stop human trafficking. One amazing project that Dr. Ailamaki describes in an article about her company involves collaborating with neuroscientists who simulate cognition functions in the human brain. “I helped build the Human Brain Project,” Ailamaki says, “and started leading an infrastructural effort to federate all hospital data in a scalable manner in order to create a sea of medical information and, through integration, mining, and causal modeling, build biological disease signatures which uniquely identify different types of brain diseases.”

5. Shwetak Patel, Using Sensors to Save Energy and Save Lives
(Video screen shot: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_videos.jsp?org=NSF&cntn_id=126243&media_id=73478 )

(Image credit: National Science Foundation)

The technology that changed the world: Shwetak Patel, Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington, directs his research group, the UbiComp Lab, in developing new sensing system technologies that can be applied to energy and water sensing, and mobile health. According to Shwetak, walls can talk—and he’s capturing their stories about how people move through their homes and how they use water, gas, and electricity. He has invented a series of low-cost senior technology systems for the home that are focused on reducing energy consumption, as well as monitoring movement for eldercare.

6. Rosalind Picard, Reinventing How We See the World With Digitally Augmented Objects and Environments
(Video screen shot: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_videos.jsp?org=NSF&cntn_id=126243&media_id=73478 )

(Image credit: National Science Foundation)

The technology that changed the world: MIT professor Rosalind Picard heads up the Think Consortium, which is uniting leaders in science, engineering, design, and art to invent prototypes of how embedded computer chips might change and augment the products and services of tomorrow, shifting every aspect of how we interact with the world.

Some of the projects being researched include: the CityCar, a stackable two-passenger vehicle; a “SixthSense” wearable interface that not only augments the physical environment, but also enables the wearer to use hand gestures to interact with virtual information; and “smart” sensors that detect emotions and help doctors better determine what patients are feeling.

Check out this video of Picard explaining how computer chips can analyze facial expressions and detect human emotions.

7. Francine Berman, Sharing Data Worldwide

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology that changed the world: Dr. Berman, a professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is the U.S. lead of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international consortium created to accelerate research-data sharing worldwide. This has far-reaching implications for healthcare, education, agriculture, and many other pressing global concerns that require common technology infrastructure, policy, and practices for effectively sharing massive quantities of data.

In addition to her contributions in the field of cyberinfrastructure, Berman has been involved with national efforts to recruit, retain, and advance women in STEM fields. She is a founding member of the Computing Research Association Committee on the Status of Women, and serves as Board Vice-Chair of the Anita Borg Institute.

8. Zoltan Takats, Inventor of the “iKnife”

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology that changed the world: One-in-five patients who have a breast lump removed still need a second operation to clear their tumor, and for lung cancer patients the figure is about one-in-ten. That’s why the intelligent surgical knife invented by Dr. Takats and his team at the Imperial College of London is so important. Here’s how the iKnife works: the hot blade burns through tissue and the smoke is sucked into a high-tech “nose” (mass spectrometer) and analyzed. The iKnife can identify the subtle differences between the smoke of cancerous and healthy tissue. This small but potent computerized surgical tool has been saving lives since 2013.

9. Sebastian Thrun, Inventor of Google Self-Driving Car

(photo credit: Uber)

The technology that changed the world: The driverless car is no longer just a thing of cheesy movies and TV shows. Uber caused a major buzz earlier this year when its first robotic car, a modified Ford Fusion hybrid, hit the streets of Pittsburgh. San Francisco is one of a handful of cities working on a proposal involving shared ownership of driverless cars that would enable more people to work in the city, and be good for the environment.

It all began in 2005, when Computer Science professor Sebastian Thrun led a team at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory creating the software that powers Google’s self-driving cars. In 2014, Google presented a new concept for driverless car that had neither a steering wheel nor pedals, and unveiled a fully functioning prototype in December of that year that they have been testing in the San Francisco Bay area. Google plans to make these cars available to the public in 2020.

10. Frederic Moll, Co-Inventor of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The technology that changed the world: Dr. Frederic Moll is the founder of Intuitive Surgical, the company that invented the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. This device enables complex surgery to be performed using a minimally invasive approach. Small incisions are made to insert miniaturized instruments and a high-definition 3D camera. The robotic “arms” are controlled by a surgeon from a console, allowing for far greater mobility than possible with just the human hand. Thousands of hospitals around the world are using the da Vinci to save lives.

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