Early in his career at the University of Notre Dame, around 1960, Walter Johnson took students at night to Bendix Corp. to do calculations on the manufacturer’s computer that could do 15 multiplications a second–15 times as many as the University’s computer.
“When they weren’t using their computer, they let us use it,” recalled Johnson, an atomic physicist. “The emphasis was to try to do things that people normally would do with pencil and paper, but you can’t get far that way. That’s been kind of the story of my research. During the time I’ve been working in this area, there has been this incredible development of computers.”
Johnson, 79, has been a world leader in the use of computers to solve complex problems, bringing the technology together with mathematics and physics. Leading physicists gathered at Notre Dame from around the world April 4-5 to toast his half-century with a symposium on atomic physics.