Math in the News
Maurice Wilkes, "Father" of British Computing, Dies at 97
December 3, 2010
Maurice Vincent Wilkes, who played a pivotal role in the history of British computing, died November 29, 2010, at age 97.
Inspired by ideas by John von Neumann, Wilkes lead a Cambridge University team that constructed the world’s first operational stored-program computer, called the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC).
Before EDSAC, which became operational in May 1949, digital computers such as the American Moore School’s ENIAC (Electronic Numeral Integrator and Computer) could only deal with one problem at a time. The EDSAC, however, could carry out more than 600 operations per second, allowing for the development of the computer dubbed LEO, one of the first business computers in the United Kingdom.
Born in Dudley, Worcestershire, in June 1913, Wilkes studied mathematics at Cambridge University, where he worked with simple calculating machines. At age 24 he was appointed university demonstrator of Cambridge's new Mathematical Laboratory. During World War II, Wilkes helped develop radar.
In 1945, he became director of Cambridge University's Mathematical Laboratory. In 1965, he was appointed professor of computing technology, and held the post until retirement in 1980. Wilkes then became a computer consultant for DEC and Olivetti’s research labs.
Historian Simon Lavington said, “If any person deserves the title of the father of British computing, it is surely Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes.”
Source: Top News (December 1, 2010)