Peabody School is extremely grateful for the generosity of the Dengel family and their support of the 2020 Capital Campaign for the new north wing at Peabody. Specifically, the Dengels have chosen to name the new technology lab in the north wing the ENIAC 6 Lab. We asked the Dengels to share the historical background and significance of this naming selection.
“The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the world’s first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer,” Mr. Dengel said. “I became interested in the project while studying at the University of Pennsylvania, where it was formally dedicated in 1946 and on display in the building where I took many engineering classes. It was truly inspirational to be in the same building where something so historic had happened.”
The early days of computing were quite gender diverse, “in contrast to the current state of the field,” Mr. Dengel said. “In fact, in 1945, Grace Hopper at Harvard was working on a computing device and found a moth on an electronic panel that was shorting out a circuit – she invented the terms “bug” and “debugging,” which are with us to this day.” Mr. Dengel added that, while students know from photographs that many of the programmers of the ENIAC at Penn were female, these women were not acknowledged in the official histories of the program.
Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Meltzer, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman – all women – were the first programmers of the ENIAC. However, many did not receive recognition for their work on the ENIAC in their lifetimes. Mr. Dengel noted that from its gender-diverse beginnings, the high tech industry “has become markedly less diverse in the ensuing decades. In 1986, 37% of Computer Science degrees went to women (source), whereas in 2019, it was only 18% (source).” Mr. Dengel added that “it is absolutely critical that we reverse both this trend as well as the extreme under-representation of minority researchers in tech.”
In a world where technology will infuse every professional and academic field, “the Peabody maker space is designed to inspire our next generation of technology leaders,” Mr. Dengel said. “The story of the women of ENIAC 6, shows that computer science, from its very beginnings, was pioneered by diverse voices and is a field where all students can excel and make a difference. Researchers have proven that creativity, invention and innovation have superior outcomes when contributions are made from diverse points of view – and that all starts with inspiring a deep interest in technology across all our children.”
We appreciate the generosity and thoughtfulness behind the Dengel family’s gift to Peabody, and we look forward to the opportunities it will provide all Peabody students!