Foundation of Chair of Computer Science, 1967

From Our History
Jump to: navigation, search

In 1967, Sidney Michaelson (1925-1991) was appointed to the newly founded Chair of Computer Science.

The study of Computer Science at Edinburgh University began in April 1963 with the formation of the Computer Unit. Michaelson, who had previously conducted research in the Department of Mathematics, Imperial College, London, was appointed as its Director. Initially, the Unit had no computing equipments on its own, and Michaelson had to develop a service based on the use of a land-line to the Manchester University Atlas computer. Nonetheless, the Unit attracted research students from 1963, launched a postgraduate diploma from 1964, and introduced undergraduate classes from 1965. In 1966, Michaelson obtained funds for a collaborative project with English Electric-Leo-Marconi (later ICL) to design a groundbreaking multi-user operating system. This developed into the Edinburgh Multi-Access System (EMAS) which Edinburgh University's central computer service would be run until it was replaced by UNIX from 1989 onwards.

In 1965 the Flowers Report, commissioned by the UK Government, recommended that there should be regional computing centres at the Universities of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh, with very large computers to which other universities would have access. It also proposed that Edinburgh take a leading role in developing conversational systems and advanced computing networks. The result was the division of Edinburgh University's Computer Unit into the Department of Computer Science (under Michaelson) and the Edinburgh Regional Computing Centre (under Gordon Eric 'Tommy' Thomas (1928- )). One year later, Michaelson was appointed Edinburgh University's first Professor of Computer Science, a post that he held until his death in 1991.


  • BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, Edinburgh Branch, 'Sidney Michaelson 1925-1991' [[1], accessed 29 August 2014]]
  • Ronald M. Birse, Science at the University of Edinburgh, 1583-1993: An Illustrated History to Mark the Centenary of the Faculty of Science and Engineering 1893-1993 (Edinburgh: Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Edinburgh, 1994)