Despite an interest in things technical Ernest Lenaerts' parents persuaded him to take a clerical job at J. Lyons & Co, starting in the late 1920s. Bored by his job he asked for more technical training in the hope of getting a job in the Lyons laboratories. His chance to progress came during World War II. In
1941 he became a wireless mechanic in the RAF rising to the rank of sergeant before demobilisation. He returned to Lyons, but was now appointed Radio Mechanic working on innovative microwave technology.
On the inauguration of the collaboration between Cambridge University and Lyons on the EDSAC/LEO project he was sent to Cambridge for the year 1948 both to learn about computer technology and to help in the design of EDSAC. When Lyons commenced building LEO he joined John Pinkerton in the design team. He made many contributions and also helped in the writing of many technical papers including one selected as the best paper of that year. The notebooks he kept during this time can be found here.
Lenaerts subsequently took an interest in the man-machine interface including working on speech recognition. He retired in 1969.
A biographical sketch of his career can be found on pages 206 to 207 of Peter Bird’s book LEO: the World’s First Business Computer. A biographical sketch by his sons Paul and David is available for reference purposes.
An Obituary to Ernest Lenaerts was published in the Computer Conservation Society's journal Resurrection in 1997. To view it, click on the following link :
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The first photo (right) shows Lenaerts with LEO I. The second is much later (1966) and was taken when Lenaerts was recognised for 40 years of service with Lyons.
Ernest Lenaerts notebooks and papers in the LEO Computers Society Archive:
Archive material resulting from Ernest Lenaerts work on LEO, including the notebooks he kept during the development and installation of LEO I, is now a valuable part of the archive of the LEO Computers Society, and is being digitised and catalogued here at CCH as part of our National Lottery Heritage-Funded LEO project. Work is ongoing, but you can view the current catalogue here:
Articles Written by Ernest Lenaerts :