Theodore Hildebrandt (1976)

Theodore Hildebrandt

Professor Emeritus

Starting year at UNCG: 1976
Ending year at UNCG: 1993


Degree(s): Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of Michigan (1956)

Brief Biography

Professor Theodore (Ted) Hildebrandt (8 December 1922 – 29 April 2017) received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1942 from the University of Michigan. He then enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he remained until the end of World War II. Following the war, he returned to Ann Arbor to pursue a Master’s degree in mathematics, since he felt that the field of physics would be dominated by nuclear studies, which did not interest him.

During his first semester back at the University of Michigan, his father, Professor Theophil H. Hildebrandt, who was the Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Mathematics from 1934-1957, gave him a paper written by Arthur Burks, Herman Goldstine and John von Neumann entitled “Preliminary discussion of the logical design of an electronic computing instrument.” Theophil wanted Ted’s assessment of the proposal. Ted read the paper and became very excited by it, so much so that when his father mentioned that Herman Goldstine was looking for engineers to work on the computer project in Princeton, he jumped at the chance. He worked on the Princeton Project with von Neumann and Goldstine at the Institute for Advanced Study for about 18 months. While he was at Princeton, he took graduate courses in mathematics and had the credits transferred to the University of Michigan where he completed the MA in math in 1947.

After working on the Princeton Project, Ted decided to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics and applied to MIT, where he was offered a graduate assistantship in math. In addition to working on the degree at MIT, he worked on Project Whirlwind, a flight simulation project. Unfortunately, he failed his initial attempt at the Ph.D. preliminary exams and was advised to write a Master’s thesis. He wrote his thesis on the problem of determining the deflection of a spherical shell, like the end of a pressure vessel, under a concentrated load. Ted was awarded the Master of Science in Mathematics by MIT in 1951. Because of his difficulties at MIT, Ted decided to return to Michigan to finish a Ph.D. in mathematics. He heard later from his father that his advisor at MIT was disappointed that he did not return there.

Ted’s work on his doctorate was interrupted when he was called up from the Naval Reserve to serve in the Korean War. He was assigned to the US Naval Computing Machine Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he spent 18 months before being released from active duty. In the fall of 1954, Ted was encouraged to apply for a fellowship at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies to work on his dissertation. He and his wife, Ruth, moved to Oak Ridge in January 1955, and he received his Ph.D. in 1956 from the University of Michigan. His dissertation concerned two problems and was entitled: “I: Iterative Methods for the Approximate Solution of Linear Algebraic Equations. II. Self-adjointness in One-group Multi-region Diffusion Problems.” It was published as Oak Ridge National Laboratory Report ORNL-2146. The publication can be found on the Internet in PDF form. After Ted received his Ph.D., he went to Ohio State University where he held various positions. He was the Assistant Director of Computing Center, and advanced from Assistant to Associate, and then Full Professor of Mathematics. He eventually became Professor and Associate Chairman, Division of Computer and Information Science.

During 1968-1969 Ted was Director of the Computing Center and Professor of Computer Science at Kansas State University, and during 1969-1974 he was Head, Computing Facility, and Consultant to Director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. During 1974-1976 Ted worked at the US Department of Commerce, Office of Telecommunications, Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, as Expert Consultant on Computer Software.

Ted came to UNCG in 1976, as Professor of Mathematics and Director of the Academic Computer Center that had opened its doors on October 1, 1973. The purpose of the Center was to advance academic computing (as opposed to administrative computing). Some computing on campus was being done using the big mainframe IBM 370 computer at the Triangle Universities Computing Center (TUCC). Major “big data” computing needed all the computing power available, especially in the Business School, and in some science computing. In 1980 sufficient funding became available for the purchase of a computer exclusively for use in academic computing at UNCG. Ted determined the DEC VAX-11/780 mini computer was the best use of those funds, and purchased that computer and related peripherals. Our sources say that the bulk of the funds used to purchase the VAX (about $300,000, a small fortune at the time) came from the foresight of the Dean of the Business School, David Shelton, who allocated funds left over from the construction of the new building for the School of Business. The Academic Computer Center was moved into the new building, and a special room was constructed in that building for housing the VAX computer. Interface with the VAX mini computer was by terminals; the VAX could accommodate up to 32 users across campus at one time. The year 1980 was one year before the arrival of the IBM personal computer and the beginning of the personal computer revolution, which eventually moved terminal-based computing to desktop computing.

In 1986, Ted resigned as Director of the Computer Center and returned full time to the Department (then named the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics). He taught courses in the fledgling area of computer science, with an emphasis on numerical analysis, strengthening the department’s efforts in that area. Ted retired from UNCG in 1993.

After Ted retired, he was active in SeniorNet, a non-profit organization that helps older people access computer technologies. He taught courses, revised course material and developed new course material for SeniorNet in Greensboro and was a SeniorNet coach in Colorado. He sang in the Greensboro Choral Society, and was active at St. Francis Episcopal Church, and sang in the choir. He moved back to Colorado in 2005 to be with his daughter, Sarah and his son.

With the help of Ted’s daughter, Sarah, we were able to identify the following publications by Ted Hildebrandt:

  • OSLP ‒ the Ohio State Linear Programming Code ‒ The OSUSYS Subroutine Library (1965)
  • A Computer Science Program at the Ohio State University (abstract) American Mathematical Monthly 73 8 (1966) p 925
  • Report of the Computer Study Committee, Board of Regents, State of Kansas, 1969 (contributor and editor)
  • Plan for the Acquisition of Additional Computing Capability, NCAR, 15 November 1972 (contributor and editor)
  • Plan for Meeting Augmented Computing Requirements for NCAR/UCAR, 6 August 1973 (contributor and editor)

Ted married Ruth Eleanore Stein in 1953. She had a Master’s degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan School of Music. They had four children: Sarah, Paul, Thomas and Lise. Ruth died in 1961. Ted married Mary K. Babcock in 1962. Mary K. had degrees in physical education and dance from Michigan State University and Teachers College of Columbia University, with additional graduate work at New York University. They had a son, Peter. Mary K. died in 1998.