He was born in Chicago, Illinois and died in Monterey, California. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1937, a master's degree in 1939, and finally a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1942. He was a professor at the University of Louisville when the war was going on, and left to work on the Manhattan project in 1945, programming one of the earliest electronic digital computers to calculate the solution to equations provided by the project's physicists. The objective of the program was to discover whether or not the atmosphere would ignite if an atomic bomb were detonated. The result of the computation was that this would not occur and so the United States used the bomb, first in a test in New Mexico, and then twice against Japan.