Samuel S. Snyder was honored this
year for his security contributions.
(Family - Family)
Samuel S. Snyder, 96, who was honored this year for his contributions to code breaking during
the 1940s and the conceptualization and design of computers in the 1950s at the National
Security Agency and its predecessors, died Dec. 28 at Sunrise assistant living in Frederick after
a heart attack. In October, Mr. Snyder was inducted into the National Security Agency-Central
Security Service hall of honor for his work, which began in 1936 with the U.S. Army's Signal
He was among the first 10 employees of the Signal Intelligence Service and became part of the
inner circle of William Friedman, the dominant figure in U.S. code breaking. During World War II,
Mr. Snyder led teams that successfully broke codes for the Japanese military attache system.
After the war, he was credited with having a major role in designing and building Abner, a
massive computing system for breaking codes. It was named after the comics character Li'l
Abner, "a big strong guy that didn't know anything," Mr. Snyder told the Baltimore Sun in 1995.
"Abner looked like hell," Mr. Snyder said. "But it was the most sophisticated computer of its time"
He had significant oversight responsibilities for the design and programming of later computing
systems, including Harvest, an early general-purpose computer made with IBM that challenged
Remington-Rand's then-dominant Univac model.
His hall of honor induction noted that his "pioneering work in early computers led directly to the
development of the computer as we know it, and laid the foundation for many aspects of the
modern computing industry."
Samuel Simon Snyder was born in Baltimore and raised in Washington, where he was a 1929 graduate of the old Central High School
and a 1939 graduate of George Washington University. He joined the Signal Intelligence Service in 1936 as an assistant cryptographic
From 1964 to 1966, he was coordinator of the Library of Congress's information systems office. He was among the creators of the
library's Machine Readable Cataloging system that replaced the handwritten card with an electronic searchable database system that
became the standard worldwide.
Mr. Snyder wrote a classified history of the NSA as well as "Man and the Computer" (1972) with anthropologist Ashley Montagu.
His honors include the Defense Department's Meritorious Civilian Service Award, and he was a senior member of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
His wife, Patricia Yakerson Snyder, whom he married in 1935, died in 1996. A daughter, Elaine Hodges, died in 2006.
Survivors include four children, Dr. Solomon H. Snyder of Baltimore, Carolyn Snyder of Frederick, Irving Snyder of Leesburg and Joel
Snyder of Takoma Park; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
In 1949, Mr. Snyder was named The Washington Post Ideal Father of the Year during a Father's Day contest. One of his children, Elaine,
wrote at the time: "Our pop is these things: mathematician, artist, scientist, house cleaner, sewer, dog harness maker, dog bather, can
play the clarinet, saxophone, piccolo, story writer, best father in the world, we think."
-- Adam Bernstein
Monday, December 31, 2007