NELSON, RAYMOND J. (8 Oct. 1917 - 17 Mar. 1997) was a professor of philosophy and mathematics, director of large-scale systems planning, and computer center developer at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. Born in Chicago to Florence (Anderson) and Emil Nelson and raised in rural Wisconsin, as a teenager Nelson was an instructor in his father's comptometer business, an early form of modern computers. In 1941, he received his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Grinnell College in Iowa, then served in the Army for four years during WORLD WAR II, attaining the rank of captain. Nelson's first academic post was as sole member of the philosophy department at the The University of Akron in 1946. In 1949 he earned his doctoral degree in philosophy from the University of Chicago. From 1952-1955 he worked as a mathematician and engineer in data computing systems for International Business Machines, Inc. in Endicott, NY, then spent a year with Link Aviation before becoming the first director of the computing center at Case Institute of Technology in 1956. Nelson invented computer circuits and held patents for large-scale electronic sorting systems. He retired from the CWRU philosophy department 1981, but continued to invent, write, and lecture until his death. Nelson spent October 1982 as a scholar in residence in Bellagio, Italy, by invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation. The author of three books, an unfinished autobiography, and numerous articles in philosophy, computer science, mathematics, logic and psychology journals as well as encyclopedias, Nelson was also a talented pianist who loved jazz and boogie-woogie.

Nelson married Hendrieka Rinkema in August 1942, and they had three children: Susan, Steven and Peter.


Article Categories