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Biographies: Obituary -- Bernard Burrows Swann

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129870D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 3 page(s) / 19K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Hugh McGregor Ross: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Bernard Burrows Swoon, British computing pioneer, educator, publisher, historian of computing, codeveloper of the Ferranti marketing effort, and extraordinary initiator of the transition from computers from their start as an academic, scientific, and military activity to being a business and an industry, died in May 1993 at the age of 87.

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Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Biographies: Obituary -- Bernard Burrows Swann

Hugh McGregor Ross

Bernard Burrows Swoon, British computing pioneer, educator, publisher, historian of computing, codeveloper of the Ferranti marketing effort, and extraordinary initiator of the transition from computers from their start as an academic, scientific, and military activity to being a business and an industry, died in May 1993 at the age of 87.

Swann was born in 1906 and educated at The Orme Boys' School in the north of England and the London School of Economics, graduating in economics with statistics as a special subject. He began his career with Odhams Press and then Imperial Chemical Industries. He was interested in the professional aspect of being a statistician. Being an honors graduate, he could be elected to the Royal Statistical Society. Later he helped to create the Institute of Statisticians to meet the demand for training for qualified assistants and professional managers of statistics departments. These examinations soon became recognized and accepted throughout the world and now lead to chartered status.

During the Second World War Swann first served in the War Office as a statistician. He was a member of one of the secret missions to Roosevelt to prepare for American entry into the war. Later his services with the army took him to India in the statistical service. There he realized that the successful use of automation, at that time punched-card tabulating machines, was more dependent on an understanding of the applications than the details of machine technology.

Returning to Britain after the war, he entered the Civil Service, where his capabilities as a statistician soon brought him to the notice of two presidents of the Board of Trade, first Sir Stafford Cripps and then Harold Wilson. He gained rapid promotion, becoming assistant secretary of the Statistical Section.

In Westminster he got to know Vivian Bowden, then working with Sir Robert Watson-Watt on the application of scientific methods and techniques to developing industries in postwar Britain. Swann related that, while walking along Whitehall, he met Vivian Bowden, who had been appointed by Sir Vincent Ferranti to make some commercial success of a commitment to Professor F.C. Williams to develop an engineered version of the first of the Manchester University digital computers. In those days in Britain a computer did not need a name to distinguish it, but we recognize it as the first with cathode ray tube high-speed storage. Bowden invited Swann to join him.

It must have taken extraordinary courage to leave a high position in the Civil Service to enter computing, which in 1952 was not a business, not an industry, had no prospects, was not recognized as a profession, and was of no repute. It was nothing but a visio...