1992Advanced TechnologyInformation Science
Maurice Vincent Wilkes photo

Maurice Vincent Wilkes

  • U.K. / 1913-2010
  • Computer Engineer
  • Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge

Building and Designing the First Practical Stored Program Computer and Pioneering Studies of Computer Architecture

A computer engineer who has made an enormous contribution to the research and development of computers for practical use. He was responsible for the development of EDSAC, the first stored program computer to go into service, the prototype of the modern computer, and has conducted a great deal of highly original research into computer architecture necessary to realize high-performance computers.


Brief Biography

Born in England
Graduated from St. Johns College, Cambridge (Mathematical Tripos)
Ph.D., Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University
Head, Computer Laboratory, Cambridge University
Professor Emeritus, Cambridge University
Senior Consulting Engineer, Digital Equipment Corporation, Massachusetts
Consultant on research strategy, Olivetti

Selected Awards and Honors

Fellow of the Royal Society, London
Turing Award (ACM)
Honorary Member of Information Processing Society of Japan
Eckert-Mauchly Award (ACM/IEEE)
McDowell Award (IEEE)
Faraday Medal (IEEE)

Major Works


The EDSAC, an Electronic Calculating Machine. J.Sci. Instr.26 (with Renwick, W.)


The Best Way to Design an Automatic Computing Machine. Report of Manchester University Computer Inaugural Conference


Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer. Addison-Wesley Press. (with Wheeler, D.J. et al.)


Automatic Digital Computers. Methuen


Time-Sharing Computer System. Macdonald


Memoirs of a Computer Pioneer. MIT Press


Building and Designing the First Practical Stored Program Computer and Pioneering Studies of Computer Architecture

Dr. Maurice Vincent Wilkes is an eminent computer engineer who first developed the “stored-program computer,” the prototype of most modern computers, as well as devising many of the principal arithmetic control procedures adopted in contemporary computers. He has thereby made major contributions to the development and practical implementation of computers.

Dr. Wilkes focused his attention upon the proposals of the group headed by Dr. John von Neumann, and devised the ultrasonic delay line storage unit, stored program control mechanism, and other apparatus necessary for the realization of these proposals; and in 1949 he led the entire world by developing a stored program computer, the EDSAC, at the practical level. This program technology was exploited in the development of the first business computer, known as the LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), in 1951. Furthermore, these technological advances made possible a great number of notable achievements such as the basic programming methodology, the subroutine concept, and methods of program loading, and numerical analysis, thereby demonstrating the epochal capabilities inherent in stored program computers.

In addition, Dr. Wilkes has conducted a great quantity of original research on the procedures and devices (architecture) necessary for the realization of high-performance computers, including microprogramming and multiprogram processing methods, prototypes of operating systems, time-sharing systems, local area networks (LAN), memory protection devices, and numerous other valuable techniques. In particular, his proposals concerning microprogramming methods were indispensable for the realization of very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) high-performance computers, as well as providing effective means for imparting problem-adaptive capabilities to computers. These contributed to the realization of a new computer paradigm and have been evaluated extremely highly. This multitude of important research results has been presented and announced in a total of seven books and over 130 research papers.

This record of brilliant research achievements duly attests to the preeminent qualifications of Dr. Maurice Vincent Wilkes as the laureate of the 1992 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology.


Abstract of the Lecture

A Computer Engineer Looks Back

The author took his bachelor’s degree in 1934. He then joined the Cavendish Laboratory as a research student and worked on the propagation of radio waves in the ionosphere. In 1937 the University of Cambridge took the decision to establish a computer laboratory with the intention of equipping it with desk calculating machines and the latest analogue machines. The author was involved in this planning, but World War II broke out before the laboratory could be opened and he left for war service. On his return, in 1945 he was appointed head of the laboratory. He visited Philadelphia in the late summer of 1946 and learnt from Dr. Presper Eckert and Dr. John Mauchly all that was then to be known about the new subject of stored program digital computers. At that time no stored program computer had been built.

On his return to Cambridge, the author established a project for the construction of a computer known as the EDSAC. The lecture includes some remarks on how the task of building a stored program computer appeared to an experienced electronic engineer at a time when no such computer had yet been built.

The EDSAC began to work in 1949 and the team turned its attention to the development of programming methods and the application of the machine in as many different scientific fields as possible. In 1951 the author, jointly with D. J. Wheeler and S. Gill, wrote the first book on computer programming to be published.

The lecture contains a short account of the origins of microprogramming and goes on to describe later developments in the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge.

The author was asked to address a few words to young people at the beginning of their careers; however, the world changes so much during a man’s lifetime that he does not feel that he has much to offer by way of advice. A young person should listen carefully to what older people have to say, but he may well find that their remarks have a limited relevance to the situation as it exists today.

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Evolution in Computer Technology

November 12, 1992 (Thu.) 13:00-17:30
Kyoto International Conference Center


Coordinator: Hideo Aiso
Member, Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology;
Dean, Faculty of Environmental Information, Keio University
Greetings Kazuo Inamori; President, The Inamori Foundation
Greetings Tadao Kasami; Chairman, Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology;
Dean, Graduate School of Information Science, Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Nara
Introduction of the Laureate Hideo Aiso
Lecture Maurice Vincent Wilkes; Laureate in Advanced Technology;
"Progress and Research in Computer Industry"
Lecture Kazuhiro Fuchi; Member, Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology;
Director, Research Center, Institute for New Generation Computer Technology
"Thinking Computer ? -Parallel Inference Paradigm- "
Lecture Junichi Shimada; Director, Research Institute, Real World Computing Partnership
"Flexible Computers"
Lecture Tsuguchika Kaminuma; Head, Division of Chem-Bio Informatics, National Institute of Hygienic Sciences
"Developmental Computing - the Novel Computer from Biological Viewpoint"