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Alan Turing's Automatic Computing EngineThe Master Codebreaker's Struggle to build the Modern Computer$
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B. Jack Copeland

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198565932

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198565932.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 April 2021

The creation of the NPL Mathematics Division

The creation of the NPL Mathematics Division

(p.23) 2 The creation of the NPL Mathematics Division
Alan Turing's Automatic Computing Engine

Mary Croarken

Oxford University Press

In April 1945, the journal Nature announced that the National Physical Laboratory would ‘extend its activities by the establishment of a Mathematics Division’. The new Mathematics Division was intended to act as a ‘central mathematics station’ and was the first of the three main centres of early electronic computer development in Britain. The Division had two main functions: to undertake research into new computing methods and machines, and to provide computing services and advice to government departments and industry. It was soon providing a national computing service, and became a leading centre for numerical analysis. This chapter sets the stage for these developments in computing, focusing on the circumstances surrounding the creation of the NPL Mathematics Division. Four questions are addressed: why was a central mathematics station needed? Why was it established at the NPL? Why was John Womersley chosen as superintendent? And finally, to what extent did the NPL Mathematics Division succeed as a central mathematics station?

Keywords:   National Physical Laboratory, computing machines, computing services, numerical analysis, John Womersley

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