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Maurice V. Wilkes

2001 Fellow

For his contributions to computer technology, including early machine design, microprogramming, and the Cambridge Ring network.

It was on one of my journeys between the EDSAC room and the punching equipment that the realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent in finding errors in my own programs. —Maurice V. Wilkes


Biography

Maurice Wilkes (center) with EDSAC, 1949
Maurice Wilkes (center) with EDSAC, 1949

Maurice V. Wilkes was born in Dudley, England, in 1913. He received a Ph.D. in physics (1936) from the University of Cambridge.

Wilkes began experimental research on the atmosphere, complex calculations that led him to an interest in computing methods. In 1945, he became the first head of the computer laboratory at Cambridge and the following year, began working on the groundbreaking EDSAC computer, which became functional in 1949. In 1951, along with two colleagues, he published the first book on computer programming and then proposed microprogramming, a system that was ultimately adopted throughout the computer industry.

In 1974, Wilkes concluded that local area networks could be more effective if based on computers rather than telecommunications technology. His design study for what became known as the Cambridge Ring was a landmark in the field of networking.

After 1980, Wilkes worked in industry, first with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and then with AT&T Research Laboratories. He was a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. He held the Turing Award (1967) and the Kyoto Prize (1997), and was knighted in 2000. He passed away in 2010.