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Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Electronic Computer Project records

Scope and Contents

The Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Electronic Computer Project records consist of correspondence, memos, reports, patents, contracts, operational guides, blueprints, punch cards, wiring drawings and diagrams that pertain to the Electronic Computer Project, computer science and some of the Engineers on the project. There are logbooks of meteorological studies done on the Institute Computer and other logbooks that contain memory notes, engineering and general arithmetic logs for the Computer. There is one legal-sized folder of ECP employee agreements. Oversized maps and blueprints were separated and are now located in the oversize flat file cabinets with memos to files.


  • Majority of material found within 1945-1955
  • 1940-1967

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are welcome to publish, reproduce, and use the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center’s holdings in accordance with U.S. Copyright Law. Under the Fair Use doctrine, users may freely reproduce materials for personal research, teaching, and/or scholarship. Under the same doctrine, users may cite or publish selected passages and/or quotations for comment and criticism. In accordance to U.S. Copyright Law, researchers seeking to reproduce and/or publish materials in the entirety and/or for commercial purposes will require the permission of the copyright holder.

The Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright to materials generated by Institute employees over the course of their work for the Institute. Where the Institute for Advanced Study holds the copyright, researchers are free to reproduce materials for one-time, non-commercial purposes. For all other cases, researchers are responsible for contacting the Archives Center to request permission at: For all materials for which the Institute is not the copyright holder, researchers that choose to pursue publication and/or reproduction are responsible for determining the individual who does hold the copyright and requesting permission directly from that individual. Researchers with questions regarding the reproduction or use of archival materials can contact the Archives Center to request help at:

Biographical / Historical

The Electronic Computer Project was undertaken as a part of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. It was begun on the IAS campus in 1945 and in January 1952 culminated with the completion of a machine. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) machine built at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was a precursor to the Institute Computer, as was the Electronic Discrete Variable Arithmetic Computer (EDVAC). Prof. von Neumann contributed much to the design of EDVAC. Herman H. Goldstine, one of the Engineers on the team that constructed the ENIAC, eventually came to the Institute to help Prof. von Neumann. Some of the principal Engineers on the Project were Julian Bigelow, Gerald Estrin, Willis Ware, James Pomerene, Sung Yuen Wong, Norman Phillips, Ralph Slutz and Hans J. Maehly.

Arthur Burks, Goldstine and von Neumann drafted the first version of "Preliminary Discussion of the Logical Design of an Electronic Computing Instrument" in June 1946 and multiple subsequent reports were written, many of which are represented here in the collection. While the Institute machine was not formally dedicated until 1952, calculations had been taking place on it since the summer of 1951. The computer was fully functional until 1960, though it was primarily used by Princeton University towards the end, and was eventually deposited in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History where it remains today.


7.0 linear feet (12 manuscript boxes and 3 records boxes)

Language of Materials



The Electronic Computer Project, led by John von Neumann, was based at the Institute for Advanced Study from 1945 to 1960. The Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Electronic Computer Project records consist of correspondence, memos, reports, patents, contracts, operational guides, blueprints, punch cards, wiring drawings, diagrams, and logbooks.


The collection consists of the following two sub-groups: Correspondence, Reports and Papers and Log Books.

Custodial History

Archivists removed the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Electronic Computer Project records from an Institute for Advanced Study campus storage area in the 1980s. Institute for Advanced Study staff recovered the materials during the renovation of the building that formerly housed the Electronic Computer Project.

Related Materials

There is a related collection of bulletins, reports, and pamphlets from the Electronic Computer Project Library and punch cards used by the ECP group. This collection has been titled Electronic Computer Project records (West Building Storage) to distinguish it from this collection. The Institute for Advanced Study Director’s Office records. Electronic Computer Project files include significant correspondence related to the ECP.Finally, files for scholars associated with the ECP, including those in the field of meteorology, are located in the School of Natural Sciences records.


  • Aspray, William. John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.
  • Bigelow, Julian. "Computer Development at the Institute for Advanced Study", in A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century by N. Metropolis, J. Howlett and Gian-Carlo Rota. Academic Press, Inc., 1980: 291-310.
  • Dyson, George B. Turing's Cathedral. New York: Random House, 2012.
  • Dyson, George B. Darwin Among the Machines: the Evolution of Global Intelligence. Cambridge: Perseus, 1997.
  • Goldstine, Herman H. The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.
  • Oppenheimer, J. Robert. Institute for Advanced Study, "Report of the Director, 1948-1953."

Processing Information

Institute for Advanced Study Archives and Cataloging Lisa R. Coats arranged and described this collection. Processing and cataloging were completed by May 2003. The processing included some cleaning, removal of rusty fasteners, placing all documents in acid-free folders, relabeling the files, removing larger maps and blueprints to put in a map box, and reboxing into acid-free document boxes or cubic boxes. The material was then cataloged in the Horizon database.

Guide to the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.). Electronic Computer Project records
Lisa R. Coats prepared this finding aid.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
This finding aid is written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2022-02-05: Caitlin Rizzo revised this finding aid to comply with DACS standards and revised the record group title.