Today computers are ubiquitous. It’s easy to forget once upon a time sailors wishing to calculate longitude and latitude had to use ink and paper. Scientists, once they recognized orbital regularity, would calculate comet reappearances using their mental prowess alone. Long before the advent of IBM, people that performed such calculations were actually known themselves as computers.
Imagine its the sixties. You’re a young man, living in Brazil, Igor Cornelsen. You’re ready for university. You also have a flair for computing. It’s an in-demand skill in those days before IBM. There’s one engineering school in your neck of the woods, with a lot of stiff competition. Yet, you get in. Afterwards, you do what’s often done in those days. You shift to the financial world. After all you can compound interest in your head.
Igor Cornelsen is a real person. And, even though devices that can do what human computers used to do exclusively came into mainstream vogue during his lifetime, he prospered. After two years of developing his mathematical skill as an engineering student at the Federal University of Parana, Igor Cornelsen switched to economics as his discipline of choice. After mining both disciplines, Cornelson was hired at Multibanco. A mere six years took Igor Cornelsen to CEO status before the company was gobbled up by Bank of America. Cornelsen would climb the rung at three more financial institutions of note, Unibanco of Brazil, Libra Bank PLC, of London and Standard Chartered Bank also of the UK, before founding his own investment company in 1995.
Today Igor Cornelsen is a wealthy retiree, who can well afford to spend his time golfing at his favorite Floridian spots when he’s not in residence at his other home in Brazil. Preparation and skill gave a human computer a truly satisfying life arc.