History of Computing Collection: Scientific Computing Service Ltd

Scope and Content

The following collection includes a selection of working papers from the Scientific Computing Service. Most are undated, some are unsortable, but a few include handwritten notes and comments by Comrie.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Scientific Computing Service was founded as a private venture in 1936, becoming a limited company in the following year. It specialised in scientific calculations generally, and particularly those where mechanical computation and mass production methods were employed. The managing director was Dr Leslie John Comrie (1893-1950), English astronomer and pioneer in mechanical computation, who was born in Pukekohe, New Zealand, and educated at Auckland University College and Cambridge University. After teaching in the USA, he joined HM Nautical Alamanac Office in 1926, becoming superintendent, 1930-36. Comrie greatly influenced the development of scientific computation in the interwar period, and was elected FRS shortly before his death.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Institution of Electrical Engineers (the SCS papers were amongst a large body of material collected by the Library of the British Computer Society). Miss Sheila M. Burrough, former employee of SCS, also donated some material.


Description compiled with reference to:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Leslie John Comrie;
  • Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society;
  • Mary Croarken, Early Scientific Computing in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). Croarken refers to a few primary sources on Comrie at the Nautical Almanac Office and the SCS.

Related Material

Other L.J. Comrie papers can be found at: Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives (ref.: GB 0012 RGO 46); Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (ref.: GB 0161 CSAC58/2/78 ); and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ref.: GB 0568 51.443).