A Tribute to Sir Maurice Wilkes

Speakers: David Hartley, George Davis, Chris Burton and Andrew Herbert 
Date: Thu Oct 20th 2011

14:30 (After the AGM at 14:00)
Room open in advance (from 13.30) - meet up with society members.


Fellows Library of the Science Museum
Exhibition Road, London,SW7 2DD

About the seminar

The death in November 2010 of Sir Maurice Wilkes, at the age of 97, ended one of the last links with the earliest pioneering days of digital computing in the UK. This meeting brings together a number of his friends and colleagues to pay tribute to his life and works.

The programme for the afternoon includes talks and a film as follows:

The afternoon will be opened by David Hartley, the title of whose talk indicates the length of his association with Sir Maurice.

George Davis, who is another of that band of early computing pioneers and knew Sir Maurice for many years will share his personal reminiscences with us. Both were involved in the early days of the BCS.

This will be followed by a film from Sir Maurice´s time in the USA . This will show excerpts from a recording of' a lecture he gave at the opening of The DEC Computer Museum on 24th Sept 1979, and will be the first time this has been shown in this country.

The afternoon will end by looking forward, with Chris Burton and Andrew Herbert describing the new EDSAC Replica project. The machine, which will be a working replica of the original EDSAC, will stand as a final lasting tribute to this outstanding computer pioneer.

About the speakers

Dr David Hartley entered Clare College, Cambridge in 1956 and read Mathematics followed by what is now the Diploma in Computer Science. He obtained a PhD in programming languages and compilers, developing the EDSAC 2 Autocode in the early 1960s.
Following post-doctoral appointments in the Mathematical Laboratory, he was appointed University Lecturer in 1967, and then Director of the University Computing Service from 1970. In 1994 he became Chief Executive of UKERNA (lately renamed JANET(UK)), the body that develops and operates the JANET network on behalf of the UK academic community. He became Executive Director of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre in 1997 and then Steward of Clare College from 2002. President of the British Computer Society in 1999-2000, and current Chairman of the Computer Conservation Society.

George Davis started working on computers in September 1950, following Cambridge maths & wartime Radar. He joined the English Electric team helping NPL develop the Pilot ACE. He helped with software & hardware development, and then set up and lead a dedicated maintenance team, which eventually showed that Pilot ACE could work very reliably if systematic procedures were applied. George then worked on the design and development of the Deuce and KDF9 computers. George was active in the BCS for many years and an original committee member of the Computer Conservation Society.

Chris Burton has been a member of the Computer Conservation Society since its inception in 1989. Initially he was a member of the Pegasus Working Party, and later took over that as Leader for several years.
Chris graduated in Electrical Engineering at the University of Birmingham in 1955. He worked on computer developments in Ferranti Ltd and then ICT and ICL from 1957 until his retirement in 1989. He is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Fellow of the British Computer Society and in 1998 was awarded the first BCS Lovelace Medal for his work on the SSEM (Baby) replica project.

Andrew Herbert retired from his role of Chairman Microsoft Research EMEA in September 2011. He has recently become the manager of the EDSAC Replica project.


See a short biography of Sir Maurice Wilkes from the University of Cambridge, an obituary from David Barron in Resurrection, and more from the BCS about `Remembering Sir Maurice Wilkes' which has pointers to many other resources.

Click to see a podcast of this event.