Manchester University Computer. Inaugural conference. July 1951.

Bolton: Tillotsons Ltd., 1951

Large 4to, 40 pages. Illustrations in the text. Original maroon wrappers, titled in gilt, maroon cord in spine. Bookplate of the Lyon Playfair Library, Imperial College, and faint stamp on title of the Institute of Computer Science Library.

“The second of the early British computer conferences, following the Cambridge University conference held in June 1949. ‘The Manchester University Conference was held to inaugurate the Ferranti Mark I computer… The Ferranti Mark I was the first commercially manufactured computer in Britain (and arguably in the world). To commemorate the event Ferranti underwrote the cost of the slim but elegant conference proceedings… The Mark I itself was described by F. C. Williams, and the corresponding paper in the proceedings, which is superbly illustrated, is the best single account of the Ferranti Mark I computer” (Williams and Campbell-Kelly, The Early British Computer Conferences [1989], xiii). “In comparison to the modestly produced proceedings of the 1949 Cambridge computer conference,…the Manchester pamphlet was elegantly typeset and printed in the manner of a sales brochure, and may have been intended for that purpose, since it was describing features of the first commercially marketed electronic digital computer in England” (from a long note in Hook & Norman, Origins of cyberspace, 774). These proceedings include a lecture by A.M. Turing, and two by E.A. Newman, and on pp. 35–37 the computer scientist John Makepiece Bennett and the biochemist John Kendrew describe their use of the Cambridge EDSAC for the computation of Fourier syntheses in the calculation of structure factors of the protein molecule myoglobin, the first published account. “This was the first application of an electronic computer to computational biology or structural biology. Using this computational technique Kendrew solved the three-dimensional structure of myoglobin, the first protein to be so analyzed. In 1951 Cambridge University was one of only three or four places in the world with a high-speed stored-program electronic computer, and Kendrew took full advantage of the speed of Cambridge’s EDSAC computer and its more powerful successors to execute the complex mathematical calculations required to solve the structure of myoglobin. Kendrew was the first to apply an electronic computer to the solution of a complex problem in biology. In 1962 Kendrew received a share of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his use of x-ray crystallography to determine the atomic structure of proteins” (Jeremy Norman [of course—who else?], Catalogue 50).


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