Tom Kilburn: A Tale of Five Computers

David Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the preeminent figures in the early history of computer design was Tom Kilburn. Over the course of some 30 years, he made significant contributions to the development of five historically significant computers. Although a natural team leader possessed of a somewhat dominating personality, who inspired in those who worked closely with him great loyalty and affection, Kilburn was, on casual acquaintance, a self-contained man who chose his words with care. Tom Kilburn was born August 11, 1921, in West Yorkshire, England. His father, John William Kilburn, was a statistical clerk who rose to become a company secretary.13Tom had a somewhat specialized education at Wheelwright Grammar School having been permitted by his headmaster to study almost nothing else from around the age of 14. It was hardly surprising therefore he emerged from school as something of a mathematical specialist. In 1940, Kilburn went Sidney Sussex College, in Cambridge, with several scholarships. Wartime courses at Cambridge were somewhat truncated and in 1942, Kilburn graduated with First Class Honors in Part I of the Mathematical Tripos and in the preliminary examination for Part II.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-38
Number of pages4
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014

Bibliographical note

© David Anderson, ACM, 2016. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record was published in Communications-ACM,


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