Prof. Burks in front of a portion of the
ENIAC that he brought to the University of Michigan in 1964.
This part of the original ENIAC is currently displayed in
the Computer Science and Engineering Building.
We are saddened by the news that Professor
Arthur W. Burks passed away on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at
the age of 92. Professor Burks was an active member of the
University of Michigan faculty for 40 years, 1946-1986.
He joined the Department of Philosophy in 1946 and founded
the Logic of Computers Group in 1949, the first research
organization dedicated to computing at the University. He
helped start the graduate program in Communication Sciences
in 1957 and the Department of Computer and Communication
Sciences (CCS) in 1967. He served as the first chair of
CCS in 1967-1968. He was the recipient of many awards and
honors including the Henry Russell Lectureship in 1978 –
one of the highest honors the University of Michigan confers
on a senior faculty member. In 1984 he joined EECS as part
of the merger of ECE and CCS.
Professor Burks received a BA in Mathematics
from DePauw University in 1936 and his PhD from the University
of Michigan in 1941. In 1943, as part of the war effort,
he was recruited to work with Professor John Mauchly, J.
Presper Eckert, and Herman Goldstine as a major designer
of what was to become the ENIAC, the first general purpose
electronic computer. The ENIAC was completed in 1946 and
parts of it are on display in the entrance to the CSE Building
due to Burks’ efforts to preserve the early history
of computing. Burks also developed an intense collaboration
with John von Neumann, co-authoring several scholarly papers
and a book with him.
Professor Burks co-authored several books
and articles (1981-2003) with his wife, Alice R. Burks that
documented in great detail the workings of the ENIAC, the
details of the Atanasoff and Berry computer of 1938, and
the legal battles that ensued over the patent rights of
those who participated in these early computers.
Professor Burks was a pioneer and an outstanding
contributor to the reputation of the University of Michigan
in the computing field. He is survived by his wife of 65
years, Alice, and three children. Our thoughts and prayers
are with Alice and her family. A memorial service will be
held at a later date.
Arthur Burks in 1946 with the original ENIAC