The 1890 Census Helped Grow Computing

Oct 20, 2019

The 2020 census is going digital. We recently brought you a story of how this technological innovation could lead to undercounting Native Americans who live on tribal land.

Today, we’re flipping that equation and rather than looking at how computer technology is affecting the census, we’re asking how the census has affected the development of computer technology.

Herman Hollerith is considered one of the forefathers of modern computing. He invented the first punch card reader. He did that to make analyzing census data easier.

David Lindsay Roberts is an adjunct professor of mathematics at Prince George's Community College. The story of Herman Hollerith is one of nearly two dozen featured in his new book “Republic of Numbers: Unexpected Stories of Mathematical Americans through History.”