Sir Maurice enjoyed a distinguished career and is widely acknowledged as an acclaimed computer scientist credited with several major developments in computing, including the world's first usable stored-program computer, the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC). It was switched on in May 1949 under the leadership of Sir Maurice who ran the EDSAC project at Cambridge University.
In 1951, Sir Maurice was responsible for the development of microprogramming a system which later became adopted widely in the industry. Many other important developments followed in the ensuing years, including his first paper on cache memories and a book on time-sharing.
Sir Maurice was a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. He was a Foreign Associate of both the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Engineering.
Sir Maurice was awarded many accolades including the Turing Award (1967), the Faraday Medal from the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London (1981), the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology (1992) and the IEEE Computer Society 60th Anniversary award for seminal contributions to the discipline of computing (2007). He was knighted in 2000.
Sir Maurice Wilkes was one of the Founder members of BCS which bought together all the UK groups interested in bridging the gap between computer engineering and the techniques of computer use.
In an interview to celebrate BCS’s 50th anniversary in 2007, Sir Maurice said that he was most proud of the fact that BCS met a clear need and attracted people with a real commitment to developing the art and science of computing in this country and elsewhere.
David Clarke, Chief Executive Officer, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, paid tribute to Sir Maurice: “Sir Maurice Wilkes was responsible for some of the most fundamental and important computer science and engineering contributions over the past century. I consider it a great honour to have known him and to be working at the Institute of which he was a founder member. He was a visionary; his contributions have been immense and long lasting. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."
Sir Maurice was an inspiration to us all, his vision has taken us far beyond the early days and encouraged us to expand our horizons. We will miss him but it was a privilege to know him.
Mary Clarkson, Trustee, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT
Sir Maurice and I were invited to Kiev in the Ukraine in 1998 to a Conference celebrating 50 Years of Computing in the Ukraine. Maurice spoke about his inventions in Cambridge in late 1948, whilst I talked about the work of the Williams/Kilburn Team at Manchester and the first RAM computer which ran in June 1948. Sir Maurice was given an Honour by the Ukrainians and we were both made very welcome.
Professor Bernard Richards, Professor of Medical Informatics, The University of Manchester
Maurice Wilkes took over from me as the European Representative on the ACM Council, thus continuing an important link between the two societies.
Bob Parslow FBCS
I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Sir Maurice on several occasions in recent years. He was a strong supporter of BCS to the end of his life and justifiably proud of its achievements. In 2009 I was delighted to represent BCS at a seminar organised to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cambridge EDSAC running its first program. The event was also billed as part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of Cambridge University. Sir Maurice was there and even though he had some difficulty walking down the steps of the lecture room, he was clearly keen to play his part in the celebrations and say a few words. He was greeted with enthusiastic applause from young students and retired academics alike - the star of the afternoon! Sir Maurice loved socialising and was a regular guest at the annual BCS Past Presidents lunch. In fact I last saw him at this year's lunch in the summer and I remember him sitting at the head of the table, surveying those who have followed in his footsteps, thoroughly enjoying himself.
Elizabeth Sparrow, BCS President 2009-2011
Years before other universities grasped computing's importance, the Maths Lab ran the Computer Science Diploma - converting postgrads from many disciplines. I and many others owe a huge debt to Professor Wilkes for this foresight. Not least, the shared tearoom in which everyone in the lab was welcome to join discussions is not just a cherished memory but a guiding principal which many managers could still usefully follow.
Annette Haworth (Dyer) FBCS