Papers and correspondence of Christopher Strachey, 1916-1975

Scope and Content

Original deposit: The papers are extensive, covering all aspects of Strachey's life and career. They include much manuscript material documenting his contributions to computer design and programming (on Elliot, Ferranti and EMI machines), and to programming languages, principally CPL, devised for the Titan (Atlas 2) computer at Cambridge University. There are reports and research papers for many firms and companies engaged in computer manufacture, drawn up by Strachey as a consultant; papers relating to his service on official and professional committees, and reports on research projects; drafts for unpublished or uncompleted publications; lectures and correspondence. There are also some programs, reports, etc. emanating from firms or manufacturers, which are of interest in the early history of British involvement in the computer industry.

Supplementary deposit: The material was assembled by Dr Campbell-Kelly, while preparing his biographical note 'Christopher Strachey, 1916-1975', Annals of the History of Computing, 7, 1985, 19-42. It supplements the main collection of Strachey's papers and correspondence deposited in the Bodleian Library in 1980. The new material includes reminiscences from a number of friends, conference papers and articles by Strachey, and obituaries and other biographical material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Strachey was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, Norfolk and at King's College, Cambridge where he read mathematics and physics. On leaving Cambridge he worked as a Research Physicist in the Valve Research Laboratories, Standard Telephone&Cables Ltd, where he worked on the theoretical design of centimetric radar valves. After the Second World War he became a schoolmaster at St Edmund's School, Canterbury, 1945-1949, and at Harrow School, 1949-1952. It was in his spare time during his period at Harrow that he devised a draughts-playing program for a computer. The remarkable success of this and other programs on the Pilot ACE at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington and on the Manchester Mark I machine led to an appointment with the National Research Development Corporation, 1951-1959. After a period as a private consultant and a Research Fellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge in 1962, he moved to Oxford University as Reader, then Professor of Computation with the Programming Research Group, 1965-1975. Strachey made a distinguished contribution to computer science, with a special interest in high-level programming languages and mathematical semantics.


Original deposit: By section as follows: Biographical, Publications and papers, Research notes, Correspondence. Index of correspondents.

Supplementary deposit: The material is not sectionalised.

Access Information

Entry permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card or an Oxford University Card displaying the Bodleian logo. All applicants for new or replacement cards must apply in person, with a recommendation and payment if required, and with proof of their identity.

Some items not available until 2000.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Christopher Strachey: CSAC catalogue no. 71/1/80, 197 pp and NCUACS supplementary catalogue no. 52/1/95, 9 pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Separated Material

The Oxford University Programming Research Group retained some manuscript lecture notes, 1968-1975.

Custodial History

Original deposit received by the Contemporary Scientific Archives Centre from Mrs Barbara Halpern, sister and the Programming Research Laboratory, Oxford. Placed in the Bodleian Library (gift) in 1980.

Supplementary deposit received in 1995 by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists from Dr Martin Campbell-Kelly, University of Warwick. Placed in the Bodleian Library (gift) in 1995.