Crucial World War II encryption devices have found a home at the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries thanks to the generosity of author Pamela McCorduck, wife of the late Computer Science Department Head Joseph Traub.
Totaling more than 50 calculating machines, letters and books, the collection contains important items in the history of computing. Included are two Enigma machines, electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used to encrypt communication. Most notably, they were used by Nazi Germany to protect military communication during World War II. With this gift, which includes one 4-rotor machine and one 3-rotor machine, CMU becomes one of a handful of American institutions to own an Enigma machine.
Other highlights include:
- A Thomas Arithmometer, the first commercially produced mechanical calculator;
- A Curta Type I Calculating Machine, designed by Curt Hertzstark while he was a prisoner in a concentration camp; and
- Rare books by Charles Babbage, the 19th century mathematician considered by some to be a "father of the computer."
The items from the Traub-McCorduck Collection reside in the University Libraries Special Collections. The University Archives, also housed in the Libraries, contains the papers of Traub and McCorduck, as well as noted computer science pioneers Allen Newell and Herb Simon, who worked alongside Traub in the department.
Many of the items in this collection were gathered via the couple's international travels over decades, driven by a desire to collect objects that held importance in their own fields of study.
A pioneering computer scientist who led Carnegie Mellon's Computer Science Department during a crucial period in its history, Traub, who died in 2015, went on to found the computer science department at Columbia University. McCorduck is an author of influential books on artificial intelligence.
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