Frederic Calland Williams: the Manchester Baby's chief engineer

David Anderson, Janet Delve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This biographical piece examines the life and work of the inventive researcher, memory maker, and electrical engineer par excellence, Frederic Calland Williams, whose contribution to the building of the Manchester Baby—the world's first electronic stored-program computer—was so invaluable. Williams is commonly, but incorrectly, characterized as the overall leader of the project while his engineering contribution is, equally often, understated. Based on a detailed re-examination of the historical evidence, Williams is resituated in his correct role as the project's chief engineer. Jacques Vaucanson made a significant contribution to the development of the textile industry in the 18th century, particularly with his automatic perforated-cylinder-driven loom, which was later improved upon by Jacquard. His work on automata is also noteworthy. Up until now there have been few reliable biographical details available concerning Jacquard. Recent research by a local Lyons historian has unearthed Jacquard's true identity as Joseph Marie Charles, together with a welter of new information about this mysterious but influential figure who developed punched-card looms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Annals of the History of Computing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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