University of Manchester Department of Computer Science: Simon Lavington Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MUC/9
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      174 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The Lavington papers, like those of Dai Edwards, document particular episodes in the history of Manchester Department of Computing Science, and include a mixture of original documents, copies of documents and notes made at a later date by Lavington. The Atlas and MU5 computers are particularly well-covered in the collection, with a number of photographs as well as original documents. There is in fact considerable overlap with the Dai Edwards papers in terms of subject matter, including documents relating to the golden jubilee of the SSEM/Baby computer. The collection also includes Lavington correspondence between 1972 and 1986, which covers the period when he was beginning the historical study of British computing.

The Lavington papers have been treated as a sub-section of the main Department of Computer Science collection, because the contents primarily relate to the Department and its work in developing mainframe computers in the post-war period, they mainly cover the history of stored-program computing at Manchester University and the spin-off industrial developments in the Manchester region that led to the Ferranti Mark I, Mark I*, Mercury and Atlas computers. Other subjects covered include Cathode Ray Tube storage patent litigation, NRDC’s activities and associated American developments; correspondence relating to Alan Turing; the growth of the Department of Computer Science at Manchester; Simon Lavington’s correspondence with computer pioneers; anniversaries of the SSEM (Baby) and Atlas computers.

Probably the greatest amount of material relates to the Atlas computer, although there is also material on the MU5, with which Lavington was associated and the Mercury.

Administrative / Biographical History

Simon Lavington was born in London in December 1939. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Manchester, graduating in 1962. He then joined Tom Kilburn’s Atlas team as a research student and worked on the hardware and software for automatic speech recognition. He became an Assistant Lecturer in Computer Science in 1965, and obtained his Ph.D. in 1968. Lavington then worked as a member of Kilburn’s MU5 design team, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1974. He left Manchester in 1986 to become Professor of Computer Science at the University of Essex, where he worked on hardware support for knowledge-based systems. He retired in 2002 and was made Emeritus Professor.

Simon Lavington is well-known as a historian of computing, and has published five books on the subject. He is an acknowledged expert on the computers developed at the University of Manchester between the 1940s and 1970s.He is a committee member of the Computer Conservation Society. He initiated the Computer Conservation Society's Our Computer Heritage project. He has been an important figure in the preservation of the documentary heritage of the University's Department of Computer Science.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the Library by Simon Lavington in February 2016.

Custodial History