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Argonne National Laboratory and the emergence of computer and computational science, 1946-1992

by Yood, Charles Nelson.

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation uses the Applied Mathematics Division (AMD) of Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) as a window to explore the emergence of computer and computational science as independent scientific disciplines. The evolution of the computing activities at Argonne reflects broader issues concerning technology, identity, professionalization, and the social organization of science. While Argonne’s development of digital computer technology is a significant part of this story, I focus on the AMD’s efforts to integrate computers – and their attendant personnel – into the scientific process. In particular, the pursuit of " computational science " required that applied mathematicians be incorporated in all stages of science and engineering practice -- from problem formulation to the definition of what constituted a solution. Arguments for such a collaborative structure drew on Cold War rhetoric, debates within the mathematical profession, and issues surrounding the increasing quantification of the sciences. Simultaneously, applied mathematicians sought to define a new research agenda that balanced their duties to provide mathematical expertise to other scientists with their desires to conduct their own research. Despite the intentions of AMD directors, the interdisciplinary collaboration that computers were supposed to foster failed to materialize as envisioned. The emergence of an independent computer science, technological innovations, and the development of computer expertise by other scientists effectively limited the extent of collaboration. Beginning in the mid-1970s, though, the development of supercomputers, together with a new federal emphasis on high-speed computer networks created new opportunities for mathematicians, computer scientists, and scientists to work together. Impetus for collaboration was fueled by a number of different national concerns, including the Japanese Fifth Generation program, the need to support the domestic supercomputing industry, and pressures to make supercomputers readily accessible to American scientists. The federal government responded by creating the High Performance Computing program in the late 1980s, followed by the Grand Challenge Program of the 1990s in an effort to foster computational science – considered a third methodology, alongside theory and experiment, for doing science . Along with enabling computational scientists to tackle problems with broad implications for science, economics, and national security, another result was a significant reorientation of computer science research. iii
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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