From Public Service Provider to Clandestine War Workshop: The Post Office Engineering Research Station in the mid-twentieth century

Speaker: Rachel Boon
Date: Thursday 19th May 2022
Time: 14:30

25 Copthall Ave, London EC2R 7BP and
Via the Internet using ZOOM.


About the seminar

The Post Office Engineering Research Station in Dollis Hill, North West London, was Britain’s leading establishment for communications research in the mid-twentieth century. Drawing on research from my PhD, this paper will show that Dollis Hill was a unique establishment not accounted for by the patterns described in existing literature on state, academic or industrial research.

By considering Dollis Hill's contribution to the history of computing, which includes the codebreaking machine 'Colossus' and post-war computer 'MOSAIC', I will demonstrate that the research station’s anomalous identity enabled it to move beyond its remit of investigating cost savings, setting standards and developing new technologies to improve communication services owned and operated by the Post Office, to play a significant and largely undiscussed role in the Second World War, post-war reconstruction and Cold War.

About the speaker

Rachel Boon is an experienced museum professional with a background in history of science, technology and medicine and public engagement. She is currently Curator of Computing and Communications at the Science Museum. Before that, she was an Exhibitions and Interpretation Officer at the Imperial War Museum and has been part of the learning teams at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester and Science Museum. Her research interests include industrial research and development, histories of infrastructures and British scientific establishments. She completed her PhD in 2020 on the history of the Post Office Research Station, Dollis Hill, 1933-1958.

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