Tom Kilburn

1971 W. Wallace McDowell Award Recipient






“For his achievement in designing and building some of the first-- as well as some of the most powerful -- computers in the world”


Dr. Kilburn is head of the Department of Computer Sciences of Manchester University, a chair he has held since the Department was established in 1964.  He received his B.A. and M. A. degrees in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and his Ph.D. degree (1948) and his D.Sc. degree (1953) from Manchester University.

Although schooled in Mathematics, Dr. Kilburn became known as an electronics expert through his work at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (Royal Radar Research Establishment) in Malvern, England during World War II.  In 1947, he joined Professor F.C. Williams at the University of Manchester.  Their work together resulted in the perfection of the Williams Tube, A CRT which, when used as a storage device, provided the first computer memory with all locations instantly accessible.  The Williams Tube was first used in the Manchester Mark I prototype in 1948.

Dr. Kilburn was responsible for the development of the Mercury Computer and prototype Atlas Computer (1960).  The Atlas was the first computer with paging and one level of storage managed by a learning program.  The first commercial Ferranti Atlas was delivered in 1964.  Since then, Dr. Kilburn and his design team at the University have been developing the M.U.5, a computer planned to be at least an order of magnitude faster than the Atlas.

Dr. Kilburn is the author of over 40 technical papers, and holder of approximately 100 patents.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and Fellow of the British Computer Society.  He has been awarded an honorary Doctorate by the University of Essex.

Professor Kilburn is married and has two children.  He makes his home at Urmston, Nr. Manchester, England.