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Andrew Booth

Andrew Booth

The work of Professor Andrew D. Booth

AD Booth, pictured in 1959 at Birkbeck Dr. Andrew Donald Booth first become involved in automatic calculators during the Second World War, whilst working on the determination of crystal structures using X-ray diffraction data. The computations involved were extremely tedious and there was ample incentive for automating the process. Booth was employed as a mathematical physicist in the X-ray team at the British Rubber Producers' Research Association (BRPRA), Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, from August 1943 to September 1945. After this he moved to Birkbeck College, University of London, though still being retained for a while as a consultant by BRPRA. This link with BRPRA later proved fortuitous in respect of workshop facilities for his Automatic Relay Computer (ARC), which he designed during 1947-49.

Sometime in 1945 Booth met Professor D.R. Hartree and began to think about the possibilities of general-purpose automatic digital computers. A visit to John von Neumann's group at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (from March to September 1947), set Booth firmly on the design of a stored-program computer. (Preface to Booth's report of that visit). As contemporary projects went, Booth's group was probably the smallest in terms of resources and personnel. He had one programming assistant, Miss Kathleen Britten (later Mrs. K.H.V. Booth). He had stated that at no time did he have more than one engineer working for him. Despite these limitations, Booth produced an electronic stored-program computer in full operation at the Birkbeck College Computation Laboratory, University of London, by the end of 1952.

Provenance: Manchester University, Department of Computer Science, courtesy Professor D.B.G. Edwards. Material collected by Professor Simon Lavington.

References: S.H. Lavington, Early British Computers (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980).
"A.D. Booth", Pioneers of Computing No.9 (Science Museum Oral History Tapes, 1976). Copy in NAHC.

We are grateful to http://www.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/about/history/booth.php from which this article and photograph have been extracted.

With thanks to Ed Dee who gave us the links including the following article which is a much fuller account researched from the Birkbeck archives; Booth's achievements, and those of his wife Kathleen:




Photograph of Andrew Booth Click for a larger version

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