Skip to main content

Henry L. Hanson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0267

Scope and Content

This collection (1942-1989, undated) contains selections from the litigation files of Honeywell Incorporated relating to Honeywell Incorporated vs. Sperry Rand Corporation, Civil Action No. 4-67, Civil 138 in the U. S. District Court, District of Minnesota, Fourth Division. Among the files are correspondence, affidavits, motions, briefs, memoranda, depositions, trial transcripts, findings of fact, publications, and photographs (For the judgment, refer to files 5/3 - 5/8).


  • Creation: 1942-1989, undated


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Henry L. Hanson was born on August 26, 1921. Hanson received a B.S. (1943) from Iowa State College (University) in electrical engineering and a L.L.B. (1951) from William Mitchell Law School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Hanson was the Corporate Patent Counsel for Honeywell Incorporated during the time of the ENIAC trial. He retired (circa 1989) and moved to Sun City West, Arizona.

In the Honeywell Incorporated vs. Sperry Rand Corporation trial, Sperry Rand Corporation was attempting to establish the validity of patent rights they had purchased from J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly. These rights included the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, which Eckert and Mauchly had patented in 1964. Honeywell Incorporated was trying to establish that Mauchly had obtained important concepts used in the ENIAC from examination of a device known as the Atanasoff Berry Computer, or ABC, during a visit to Ames, Iowa in June of 1941.

The Atanasoff Berry Computer was built by Iowa State College (University) physics professor John V. Atanasoff and physics graduate student Clifford E. Berry. It was inspired by Atanasoff's desire to eliminate the drudgery of the extensive mathematical calculations required for any research in physics at the time. At first he experimented with upgrades of the commercial calculators then available. In the winter of 1937/1938, Atanasoff devised a plan for an electronic digital computer. He applied to the Iowa State College graduate school for a grant to cover expenses for the machine and work was begun in the fall of 1939. A working prototype was completed within a few months, and a demonstration to college officials helped secure a further grant from the Iowa State College Research Council. Work continued throughout 1940, and during this time preliminary work was done toward securing a patent for the machine. It was also in 1940 that John V. Atanasoff met John W. Mauchly at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. Mauchly, a physics professor at Ursinus College, was very interested in Atanasoff's computer machine. He visited the Iowa State College campus in June of 1941 to view the device, spending about five days as Atanasoff's houseguest.

Refinements continued to be made to the device, but World War II was to intervene in the project. Berry graduated in 1941 and took a job in California. Atanasoff took leave from Iowa State and went to work at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in September of 1942. He never returned to the college. Iowa State College never patented the Atanasoff Berry Computer and it was dismantled in 1948.

John W. Mauchly went on to work at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. It was here, with J. Presper Eckert and others, that he was to develop the ENIAC. It was originally built for the United States. Army to be used for calculation of trajectory firing tables. The design of this machine would, years later, become the focus of Honeywell incorporated vs. Sperry Rand Corporation.

One of the longest trials ever held in the federal court system, Honeywell vs. Sperry Rand began June 1, 1971 and continued through March 13, 1972. The final judgment by Judge Earl R. Larson came in April of 1973. His Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order of Judgment invalidated the ENIAC patent.


2.94 Linear Feet (6 document boxes and 2 half-document boxes)


The collection is organized into six series:

Series 1, Background Information, 1942-1964, undated (chronological)

Series 2, Correspondence, 1967-1971 (chronological)

Series 3, Litigation, 1964-1973 (topical)

Series 4, Microfiche 1971-1972, undated (chronological)

Series 5, Photographs, undated

Series 6, Publications, 1958-1989, undated (alphabetical)

Items in related collections

RS 13/20/51. John Vincent Atanasoff papers, 1925-2011, undated MS-0599. Clark Mollenhoff papers, 1968-1990

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0267. Henry L. Hanson papers, 1942-1989, undated
December 12, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672