April 1955 Popular Electronics
women's roles and interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) careers has been a major effort
by schools in the last couple decades in an attempt to 'remove barriers,' both real and perceived, inhibiting
entrance into the fields. There are still
many realms of STEM that women have avoided, but computer programming and mathematics are examples their representation
having seen steady increases. Dr. Frances Bauer can be seen in this 1955 Popular Science story on Project Cyclone,
which reports on her role programming what was at the time one of the largest computers in the world. Her work ran
the gamut between civil engineering on bridge projects to predicting missile flight paths for the military. You
might recall the U.S. Navy's Grace Hopper,
who is credited with coining the term "bug"
[Table of Contents]People old and young enjoy waxing
nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October
1954 through April 1985. As time permits, I will be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby
See all articles from
Giant computers solve industry's toughest problems and open new, lucrative field for women interested in mathematics.
The lady builds bridges and test-flights rockets. Dr. Frances Bauer feeds data to computer, gets speedy and
One of the largest computers in the world. "Project Cyclone" is the test center for solving three-dimensional
problems involved in the design of aircraft and guided missiles.
The new "Age of Automation" being ushered in by electronic computers will open up many new technical and
highly remunerative fields to women. As mathematicians who "program" or "feed" data into the electronic "brains,"
women will be able to build bridges and tunnels, design dams for hydroelectric plants, pre-test the flight of planes,
tell automobile manufacturers what is wrong with next year's models, and maybe even forecast the weather weeks ahead
A number of women have already pioneered in this new field and are finding that their sex is no
barrier to their advancement. While the machines can make their calculations in minutes, often in seconds, the human
"programming" or breaking down of the problems to be solved into a series of mathematical formulae so that machines
can "digest" them, may take hours or even days. One of these machines, for instance, requires 963 instructions to
calculate the path of a guided missile. Once these instructions are received by the computer, it can perform 1,100,000
mathematical operations in exactly two minutes. A human would probably require a year to complete the job.
One of the women pioneering in this new field is Dr. Frances Bauer, senior mathematician at Reeves Instrument
Corporation, New York City, a subsidiary of Claude Neon, Inc. She assists her husband. Dr. Louis Bauer, in the operation
of the famed "Project Cyclone," built and operated by Reeves for the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics. She also
serves as a consultant on industrial problems involving the use of the Reeves Analogue Computers (REAC).
A Ph.D. from Brown University and a former Research Associate in Aeronautical Structures at the Polytechnic Institute
of Brooklyn, petite, blond Frances Bauer - still in her early thirties - has been called upon in the four years
since she came to Reeves to pre-check the performance of such deadly guided missiles and military aircraft as the
Lark, Regulus, Cutlass, and Nike.
Project director Dr. Louis Bauer (left) and Hans Meissinger, assistant, study missile's trajectory while it
is computed and drawn.
Electronics makes for safety and accuracy as Dr. Bauer watches the pull out of a dive bomber to determine point
of bomb release.
Real rocket tests cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but the "test flights"
performed for the Navy by Dr. Bauer and her colleagues at "Project Cyclone" cost little and endanger no lives. In
one instance the Navy was advised, as a result of the work at "Project Cyclone," not to try to launch certain jet
fighters from the deck of a pitching carrier. The computer proved that they were much too likely to go into the
drink instead of taking off safely.
Recently at Reeves, Dr. Bauer and her associates were called upon to
help solve certain problems in the building of suspension bridges. On another occasion officials of the Tennessee
Valley Authority presented certain questions on the operation of TVA's thirty-five dams.
Dr. Bauer, who says
there are already several hundred women in this field, advises young women interested in mathematics who are entering
college this fall and others already employed but who are looking for wider horizons, to investigate this profession
of playing handmaiden to an electronic "brain." Graduate work in mathematics is advisable but not necessary. Girls
with a B.A. may expect to start at $65 to $75 per week. Those with an M.A. may get $85 to $100, while the PhDs will
command around $125 weekly in the industrial market. Fully qualified professionals in the field may expect anywhere
from $8,000 to $12,000 per year and reportedly there are already a few women computer experts in the $25,000 per
year bracket. Who said figures weren't interesting?
Posted October 17, 2013