3500 Maple Ave., 17th Floor
Dallas, Texas 75219-3941
Fax: (214) 409-1425
Auction Name: 2020 February 22 - 23 Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas
Lot Number: 43349
Shortcut to Lot: HA.com/6215-43349
The John Scott Medal Awarded to John Presper Eckert Jr. in 1961 "For The Invention Of The First Large Scale Electronic Computer" Known as the ENIAC.
A beautiful and impressive copper medal of 102mm diameter and 496 grams bearing the seal of the city of Philadelphia ("Philadelphia Maneto
" or "Let Brotherly Love Endure") on the obverse with the text around: "Awarded By The City Of Philadelphia". The reverse bears the text around: "The John Scott Medal - To The Most Deserving" with engraved text at center surrounded by laurel branches: "J. Presper Eckert Jr, BSEE, MSEE/ For The Invention Of The First/ Large Scale Electronic Computer./ June 16, 1961". It is enclosed in a custom 5" x 5.5" x 1" leather case with "John Scott Medal/ J. Presper Eckert, Jr." embossed in gold on the top. The award that year was shared by Eckert and John Mauchley, his partner in the development of the computer.
The John Scott Award is given by the city of Philadelphia to "the most deserving" men and women whose inventions have contributed in some outstanding way to the "comfort, welfare, and happiness" of mankind. In this particular case, one would be hard-pressed to think of an invention that has affected mankind's comfort, welfare, or happiness in such an important and positive way. The ENIAC was not only the first large-scale computer, but the first reprogrammable general use computer. Most people reading this lot description are doing so on a personal computer, tablet, or smart phone; all are, in various ways, direct descendants of the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and the UNIVAC (UNIVersal Automatic Computer), both developed by J. Presper Eckert. Can one even imagine a world without the timely work of Eckert and Mauchley?
J. Presper "Pres" Eckert Jr. (1919-1995) was born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family. In high school, he joined the Engineer's Club of Philadelphia and could often be found in the laboratory of television inventor Philo Farnsworth. His parents encouraged him to study business at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school but he soon transferred to Penn's Moore School of Electrical Engineering where, in 1940 at age twenty-one, he applied for and was awarded his first patent for "Light Modulating Method and Apparatus." In 1943, the Moore School was awarded a contract to develop a computing machine using (then) fast vacuum tubes with Eckert as the project's chief engineer. The ENIAC was completed in 1945 and unveiled to the public in 1946.
Due to a disagreement regarding intellectual property claims, Eckert and Mauchley left the Moore School and started their own company in 1946, the Electronic Control Company, which built the BINAC (Binary Automatic Computer) in 1949, the first stored-program (magnetic tape) in the U.S. The company's name was changed to the Eckert-Mauchley Computer Corporation and they received an order from the National Bureau of Standards to build the UNIVAC, the first unit of which was bought by the United States Census Bureau and dedicated on March 31, 1951. It was the first American computer designed for business and administrative use.
For our Political Collectors reading this, it is interesting to note that Eckert's company joined up with CBS News to predict the outcome of the 1952 Presidential election. The UNIVAC I predicted that Dwight Eisenhower would win in a landslide. Since polling showed that Adlai Stevenson was ahead, CBS downplayed the prediction until the election when they announced that UNIVAC's predictions had been correct against all popular logic at the time. This made the machine famous and raised public awareness of computer technology.
The creator of this prestigious award, first presented in 1822, was an Edinburgh pharmacist named John Scott. He set up a fund in 1816 calling upon the "Corporation of Philadelphia entrusted with the management of Dr. Franklin's legacy" to bestow upon "ingenious men or women who make useful inventions" a premium not to exceed twenty dollars and a suitably inscribed copper medal. The medal is still being awarded to this day (with a much larger cash prize). Several of the well-known fellow winners are mentioned above so it is easy to see the distinguished company Eckert joined in 1961.
This significant John Scott legacy medal was awarded to an individual whose contributions to the early development of the programmable computer may now by forgotten by many. Those computer "geeks", engineers, and scientists that are "in the know" about the history of computing will be in awe of this item (and this man). It belongs in a museum or institutional collection and may end up in one if they are the high bidder. However, it could also end up in a private collection like yours. Think of the prestige this medal conveys and place your bids accordingly. The Eric C. Caren Collection.