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Ida Rhodes (born Hadassah Itzkowitz; May 15, 1900 – February 1, 1986) was an American mathematician who became a member of the clique of influential women at the heart of early computer development in the United States.
Hadassah Itzkowitz was born in a Jewish village between Nemyriv and Tulchyn in Ukraine. She was 13 years old in 1913 when her parents, David and Bessie Sinkler Itzkowitz, brought her to the United States (her name was changed upon entering the U.S.)
Rhodes was awarded the New York State Cash Scholarship and a Cornell University Scholarship and began studying mathematics at Cornell University only six years after coming to the United States, from 1919-1923. During her time at Cornell University she worked as a nurse's aid at Ithaca City Hospital. She was elected to the honorary organizations Phi Beta Kappa (1922) and Phi Kappa Phi (1923). She received her BA in mathematics in February, 1923 and her MA in September of the same year, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
Rhodes had her first encounter with Albert Einstein in 1922 and encountered him again in 1936 at Princeton, where a group of mathematicians traveled to spend the weekend in informal seminars. She later studied at Columbia University in 1930-31. She held numerous positions involving mathematical computations before she joined the Mathematical Tables Project in 1940, where she worked under Gertrude Blanch, whom she would later credit as her mentor.
Ida Rhodes was a pioneer in the analysis of systems of programming, and with Betty Holberton designed the C-10 programming language in the early 1950s for the UNIVAC I. She also designed the original computer used for the Social Security Administration. In 1949, the Department of Commerce awarded her a Gold Medal for "significant pioneering leadership and outstanding contributions to the scientific progress of the Nation in the functional design and the application of electronic digital computing equipment".
Though she retired in 1964, Rhodes continued to consult for the Applied Mathematics Division of the National Bureau of Standards until 1971. Her work became much more widely known after her retirement, as she took the occasion to travel around the globe, lecturing and maintaining international correspondence. In 1976, the Department of Commerce presented her with a further Certificate of Appreciation on the 25th Anniversary of UNIVAC I, and then at the 1981 Computer Conference cited her a third time as a "UNIVAC I pioneer." She died in 1986.
In an unusual case of an old specialized algorithm still in use, and still credited to the original developer, Rhodes was responsible for the "Jewish Holiday" algorithm used in calendar programs to this day. While at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST), she also did original work in machine translation of natural languages.
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