Contested Histories: De-mythologising the Early History of Modern British Computing

  • David Anderson
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 325)


A challenge is presented to the usual account of the development of the Manchester Baby which focuses on the contribution made to the project by the topologist M.H.A. (Max) Newman and other members of the Dept. of Mathematics. Based on an extensive re-examination of the primary source material, it is suggested that a very much more significant role was played by mathematicians than is allowed for in the dominant discourse. It is shown that there was a single computer-building project at Manchester in the years immediately following World War II and that it was conceived, led, funded, supplied and staffed by Newman who was supported throughout by his long-time friend P.M.S. (Patrick) Blackett. In the course of the paper three persistent myths, which lend support to the dominant narrative, are identified and debunked.


Manchester Baby SSEM Max Newman Patrick Blackett British Computing Historiography 


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Copyright information

© IFIP 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Portsmouth, “The Newmanry”PortsmouthUnited Kingdom

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