Mathematician:Leslie John Comrie

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Mathematician

Mathematician and astronomer who was a pioneer in the field of mechanical computation.

Produced two editions of Barlow's Tables, making significant extensions and enhancements.

Computerised the British football pools.


Nationality

New Zealander


History

  • Born: 15 August 1893, Pukekohe, New Zealand
  • 1912 - 1916: Attended Auckland University College (part of the University of New Zealand)
  • 1916: Fought in France with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
  • February 1918: Lost his left leg to a British shell
  • 1918: Started using a mechanical calculator while recovering.
  • 1920-22: First director of the Computing Section of the British Astronomical Association
  • 1923: Received a PhD from St John's College of the University of Cambridge
  • 1924: Traveled to the USA to teach at Swarthmore College and then Northwestern University. Pioneered the teaching of numerical analysis.
  • 1926: Became deputy superintendent of HM Nautical Almanac Office at the Royal Greenwich Observatory
  • 1928: The first to use punched card equipment for scientific calculations
  • 1930: Promoted to Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac Office
  • August 1936: Suspended because of tensions with his superiors, caused by his unconventional use of machines for calculation
  • 1937: Founded Scientific Computing Service, Limited, the world's first private company for scientific computing
  • During World War II: he headed a team of 30 scientists to computerise war work, such as the creation of bombing tables for the Allies
  • 1948: Visited USA and New Zealand
  • March 1950: Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London
  • Died: 11 December 1950 after a series of strokes


Publications

  • 1921: Eclipse of Rhea by the shadow of Titan (with A.E. Levin)
  • April 1928: On the Construction of Tables by Interpolation (in which he describes the innovation of the use of punched card equipment for interpolating tables of data)
  • 1930: Edited Barlow's Tables, 3rd ed.
  • 1932: The application of the Hollerith tabulating machine to Brown's tables of the moon
  • 1933: The computation of total solar eclipses
  • 1933: The total solar eclipse of 1940 October 1
  • 1937: The application of the Brunsviga twin 13Z calculating machine to the Hartmann formula for the reduction of prismatic spectrograms
  • 1941: Edited Barlow's Tables, 4th ed.
  • December 1941: Line of Planets (Popular Astronomy 49: pp. 397–398)
  • December 1942: Errors in Mathematical Tables (Nature 150: p. 738)
  • December 1949: The Green (?) Flash (?) (Popular Astronomy 57: pp. 42–43)