BBC Micro Computer Early home/school computer

In 1980 the Bbbc microBC embarked on a project to     develop a series of programmes on computer literacy.

 A number of companies were asked to develop a suitable 'home' computer for the project, and the winner was a small company called Acorn. Clive Sinclair's company was also involved in the bid, but was unsuccessful.

The original BBC model A was followed by the model B and B+ which had 32 Kilobytes of memory. Programs were loaded from cassette tape although a 5.25 inch disk drive was available as an optional extra and typically cost around £400.00, which was about the same price as the computer itself. Packages such as word processors were available, but were generally sold on an additional chip which was fitted inside the computer. Typically, users connected the computer to the TV to serve as the monitor.

The BBC micro was widely used in schools until it was superceeded by the early IBM PC clones such as the Amstrad 1512. Acorn followed up with other models like the BBC Master, but PCs as we know them now had become the norm, not only in education, but in the workplace as well.

More information is available from: - www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2008/03/remembering_the_bbc_micro_1.html

Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871) Early computer pioneer

 charles babbage

English Mathematician and early computer pioneer. Babbage was a member of the Royal Institution and one of the founder members of the Astronomical Society.

In the 1820s, Babbage worked on his 'difference engine'. This was a machine for performing repetitive calculations. The first model was completed and demonstrated and Babbage began work on Difference Engine 2.

He also worked on another machine known as the Analytical Engine. This had a system of punched cards for programming and also had memory - very many features similar to a modern computer.

Babbage didn't live to complete the Analytical Engine of the Difference Engine 2, and due to poor tolerances, he may have had difficulty in manufacturing the parts to a sufficiently high accuracy.

 The Science Museum in London did complete the project from Babbage's original plans, and found that the machine worked extremely well. The machine can be seen at the Science Museum.

difference engine

More information is available from: - www.charlesbabbage.net or www.sciencemuseum.org.uk




George Boole (1815 - 1864) Mathematician and Logician


 george booleBoole was born in Lincoln, his father was a shoe-maker but he also had an interest in science, particularly optics. Boole had very little formal education, he was largely self-taught. Despite this, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Queens College in Cork.

Boole developed various theories on logic and analytics and is probably most famous for Boolean logic and Boolean algebra which are widely used in Mathematics and Computing.

More information is available from: - www.georgeboole.net

Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) English Novelist and Mathematician


lewis carrollLewis Carroll is the nom de plume of the English author and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, author of Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and Hunting of the Snark as well as other works of poetry and literature.

Born in Cheshire in 1832, Dodgson was the son of a rector. He was educated at Rugby School and then at Oxford University where he studied mathematics and gained a first class degree.

Most famous as an author, but he is also credited with Carroll Squares or Carroll diagrams. These diagrams are used to show membership of a set or as a logic diagram.

More information is available from: -


Eratosthenes (276 BC - 195 BC) Greek Mathematician, Astronomer, Geographer and poet


eratosthenesEratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek Mathematician, geographer, poet and astronomer.

He is credited as calculating the circumference of the earth and also the tilt of the earth's axis, both calculations turned out to be very accurate. He is also thought to be the first person to prove the earth was round although earlier astronomers had thought it to be the case.

In mathematics, he proposed an algorithm for finding prime numbers which is still widely used today. The sieve or Eratosthenes is s pictorial means of finding prime numbers.

More information is available from: - www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk

Leonardo Fibonacci (1170 - 1250) Italian Mathematician


fibonacciNamed Leonardo Pisano but known by the name Fibonacci, he was the son of a diplomat and was thought to have been well travelled.

The Holy Roman emperor Frederick II became aware of Fibonacci through the other scholars in his court.

Fibonacci made numerous contributions to modern mathematics, but he is most famous for Fibonacci numbers or the Fibonacci sequence. The sequence itself is quite simple to generate in that the next number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers. For example: -

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55

This sequence appears in nature, science, mathematics and numerous other aspects of life. He also constructed many mathematical proofs.

More information is available from: - www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Fibonacci.html

John Napier (1550 - 1617) Scottish Mathematician


john napier

Philosopher and Mathematician John Napier was born in 1550 just outside Edinburgh. He was the eighth laird of Merchiston.

He contributed a great deal to modern mathematics including logarithms, notion of the decimal point and Napier's rods or bones, which were the early prototype of the slide rule.

Before the development of the micro processor and modern scientific calculators, logarithmic tables and slide rules were widely used in mathematics, science and engineering. As recently as the 1970s, these methods were being used by organisations such as NASA and without Napier's discoveries, it may have taken much longer to go into space and land on the moon.

Napier's birthplace, Merchiston Tower is now within the campus of Napier University in Scotland.

More information is available from: - www.scotlandsource.com/about/napier.htm

Sir Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727) English Mathematician and Scientist


isaac newton

Newton was born in Lincolnshire in 1643 to a prosperous farmer. His father died before Newton was born, and following his mother's remarriage, he went to live with his grandparents.

He went to Cambridge in 1661 where developed his interest in Mathematics and science. His scientific interest covered areas such as astronomy, physics and optics.

In 1665 he returned to Lincolnshire and spent the next two years developing some of his theories on gravity and calculus. Newton later returned to Cambridge where he became a fellow of Trinity College. He was also made a fellow of the Royal Society following the development of his reflecting telescope.

In 1687, Newton published what is probably his most famous work 'Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica'. This detailed his theory that all objects are affected by a universal force - gravity.

Amongst his other achievements he was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint and he worked on means of eliminating forged coins and bank notes.

He was knighted in 1705.

More information is available from the Issac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at: - www.newton.ac.uk


Blaize Pascal (1623 - 1662) French Mathematician, Pysicist and Philosopher

blaize pascal

French scientist, Mathematician and inventor was born in Clemont in France, the son of a local official and tax collector.

He has contributed to a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, science and philosophy. One of his early inventions was a mechanical calculating machine to assist his father in calculating the taxes he was collecting. It could handle 8 digit numbers and automatically increased the value to the left by 1 when the value on the right moved past 9. The machine was called the Pascaline and there are several examples in museums including the Science Museum in London.

Probably the most famous mathematical discovery attributed to Pascal is known as Pascal's triangle. He worked with another mathematician, Fermat on various theories of probability. Pascal's triangle also denotes the coefficients of equations when they are multiplied out. For example, the second row of Pascal's triangle gives the coefficients of a quadratic equation, the third row cubic equations and so on.

The rows of Pascal's Triangle also show the possible permutations of a given event. If you toss a coin, there are two possible outcomes, 1 head and 1 tail. With two coins the possible permutations are there is one way of getting two heads, 1 way of getting two tales, and two ways of getting a head and a tail - 1, 2, 1. With three coins the permutations are 1 way of getting three heads, 3 ways of getting two heads and 1 tail, three ways of getting two tails and 1 head, and 1 way of getting 3 tails - 1, 3, 3, 1.

The triangle also gives us the trianlge numbers - 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21 etc. It also has the Fibonacci sequence in it as well.

A computer programming language was named after him in around 1968. Pascal is often used as a teaching language for training computer programmers.

The SI unit of pressure is also named after Blaize Pascal and is abbreviated to Pa.

The first 7 rows of Pascal's triangle are shown below. Each number is generated by the sum of the two numbers diagonally above as shown. For example, the fourth number on row 7 is 35 which is the sum of 20 and 15 from the row above.

pascal triangle

More information is available from: - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaise_Pascal

Henry Perigal (1801 - 1898) Amateur Mathematician


Henry Perhenry perigaligal was an amateur mathematician who is mainly

remembered for 'Perigals dissection'. This is regarded as a very elegant proof of Pythagoras' Theorem as it is pictorial rather than abstract.

Pythagoras' Theorem states that in any right-angled triangle, the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.


The square on the longer of the other two sides can be 'dissected' as shown below.


The four dissected pieces can be fitted into the square on the hypotenuse with the square from the third side as shown.



Pythagoras (570 - 495 BC) Greek Mathematician and Philosopher


Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and Mathematician whose influence has spanned the centuries.

There is very little information about Pythagoras, but as a young man he is thought to have been well travelled, visiting Persia and Egypt. It is not clear where he was born, but it is believed he was born on the Greek island of Samos.

He taught in Italy, and was involved in a group which met regularly, possibly in secret as their discussions and propositions were often at odds with the governing powers, and the group were considered to be very political. They were known as the Pythagoreans.

Pythagoras developed a number of mathematical ideas, his most famous theorem being the relationship between the lengths of the sides of a right-angled triangle.

More information is available from: - www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/Biographies/Pythagoras.html

Claude Shannon (1916 - 2001) American Mathematician, cryptographer and electronic engineer


claude shannon

Shannon was an American mathematician, electronic engineer and cryptographer who first developed the idea of information theory.

He published a paper in the late 1940s outlining information theory and he used the term bit for the first time when referring to data.

During World War II he also worked on cryptography and code breaking and for a short time worked with English Mathematician, Alan Turing.

Shannon also worked on digital circuit design, without which modern computers would not exist. Whilst at university he was introduced to the work of George Boole. Shannon realised that electronic circuits could be used to replace relays in telephone switching systems and this lead to further work on electronic circuits.

He was also interested in chess and in 1950 he published a paper on programming a machine (or computer) to play chess.

More information is available from: - www.bell-labs.com

Alan Turing (1912 - 1954) English Mathematician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist


alan turing

Alan Turing was instrumental in the code breaking work carried out at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire during World War 2, and in particular cracking the secret of the Enigma machine developed by Germany for the transmission of encrypted messages.

The world's first programmable computer, Colossus was developed at Bletchley Park.

After World War 2, Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory and also at Manchester University. He continued to work in the field of computing and carried out some early work that formed the basis for future work in artificial intelligence. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1951.

Bletchley Park is now a museum part of which houses the National Computer Museum and is open to the public.

More information is available from their website at: - www.bletchleypark.org.uk

John Venn (1834 - 1923) English Mathematician, logician and philosopher


john venn

English mathematician, logician and philosopher born in Hull in 1823, the son of a local Rector.

After studying at Cambridge, he was ordained as a deacon, and returned to Cambridge to teach. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1897.

He published several texts on logic and probability, but he is probably best remembered for Venn diagrams, the idea for which he conceived in around 1880.

Venn diagrams are normally comprised of overlapping circles which represent data sets, the intersection denoting the items which are members of both sets.

More information is available from: -


Robin Wilson (1943 - ) British Mathematician

robin wilson

Robin Wilson is professor of Mathematics at the Open University and is one of the leading authorities on Graph Theory and colouring problems such as the number of colours required to colour a map with any two regions having a common border of the same colour. He has published numerous books and papers on Graph Theory.

He is the son of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

More information is available from: - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Wilson_%28mathematician%29