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David Tresman Caminer Studentship for the History of Computing


LOCATION: Hendon, London

FUNDING FOR: UK Students, EU Students


HOURS: Full-Time

CLOSES: 18/04/2016

Lead Supervisor: Dr. Giuseppe Primiero

Co-Supervisor(s): Members of the Leo Society Board

Programme: PhD in Computer Science

Research Theme: History and Philosophy of Computing


The Department of Computer Science at Middlesex University, together with the LEO Computers Society are looking for a PhD Candidate for a research project in the area of History and Philosophy of Computing. This will incorporate research into the objectives, design, construction and market penetration of the LEO I, II and III computers, developed by the catering firm J. Lyons and Co., and its subsidiary LEO Computers Limited – subsequently incorporated in different companies (English Electric LEO, English Electric Leo Marconi, ICL, Standard Telephones and Cables and finally Fujitsu). LEO I is widely acknowledged to be the first business computer produced and installed anywhere in the world. The project will investigate historical circumstances, technical developments in terms of systems and application software, hardware design and implementation, advances in business and administrative practice, and the social, political and business aspects that led to the successful production and marketing but later decline of LEO Computers and its software products.  Specifically, the project will aim at producing the first extensive academic dissertation on the LEO Computers, based on the critical study and analysis of all the oral, bibliographic and archival material available. These include:

  • interviews of figures linked with LEO development;
  • Blueprints and technical documents of the machines, available e.g. at the National Archive for the History of Computing in Manchester, at the London Science Museum, at The National Museum of Computing (TNMoC) at Bletchley Park and at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick;
  • Documentation held by LEO Computers Society members;
  • Journal articles, books, conference proceedings, media mentions (including obituaries of LEO personnel) and blog posts referringt o LEO and its development;
  • Analysis of artefacts.

The intended result shall offer a comprehensive overview of the conceptual and technical principles at the basis of the LEO production, contextualized in their historical, social and political environment, including reference to formal specifications, physical limitations of the machines and influences on the design from contemporary computer designs in the UK and abroad.  In addition, the results will describe the business innovations and advances in administrative practice/business process re-engineering that were achieved by the Lyons team and the later work on the LEO computers series, as well as the level of ambition in the design of the applications. The research will produce a dissertation that contributes to the understanding of the history of computing and its contribution to a wide range of business and administrative applications.

Requirements for the Candidate

Candidates are required to have a Master’s degree in the area of Computer Studies (e.g. Computer Science or Information Systems), in which case proven interest in the history and philosophy of the discipline should be available. Alternatively, a Master's degree in History and/or Philosophy of Science and Technology, if the latter can be proven to be strongly oriented towards Computing. The selected candidate will be knowledgeable in aspects of theory of computation, hardware and software design principles and basic moments in the history of computing. Other required qualifications for candidates include proven research talent, an excellent command of written and spoken English, and good academic writing and presentation skills. Any prior research experience that has resulted in publications in conferences and/or journals like HaPoC, IACAP, CiE, IFIP, Journal of the AIS, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, MISQ, JIT, JAIS, ISR, Philosophy & Technology, Journal of Information Technology, History and Philosophy of Logic and similar ones, will be considered a plus.

Functions of the PhD position

The scope of the research will be defined at early stages by the candidate in collaboration with the supervisory board. A list of activities with relevant topics include:

  • To carry out archival research into the historical context around J. Lyons and Co before and after the initiation of the LEO;
  • To investigate business and administrative innovations resulting from the work at J. Lyons and Co including the development of LEO I and its applications.
  • To investigate and fully reconstruct the historical context that led to the development of LEO II and III and the merging of LEO with English Electric.
  • To carry out archival and conceptual research into the technical aspects of the design and implementation principles of LEO I, II and III
  • To investigate the principles of their programming and execution
  • To investigate the influence of the LEO machines outside the scope of the functioning with J. Lyons and Co operations and the English business environment, in particular their role in the advancement of knowledge on computing technologies as well as the possible relations to other computing machinery developed before and during their period of operation both in the UK and abroad (from EDVAC in the US, to EDSAC in the UK and Bull in France)
  • *         To reconstruct the industry rationalization and consolidation that led to the merging of LEO Computers Limited with ICT to form ICL and an analysis of the subsequent decline in the context of UK technological market development, noting in particular the role of politics and Government
  • To contribute – in the context of the present and parallel projects – to the archival work, recovery and digitalization of any material related to the project
  • To consider practices in the LEO era in the light of contemporary results, highlighting possible influences.

Moreover, the candidate will be required

  • To record, analyse and write up the results of the research.
  • To contribute to the drafting and submitting of papers to peer reviewed journals and conferences.
  • To contribute to the preparation of progress reports on research for funding bodies as required.
  • To contribute to the overall activities of the research team and department as required.
  • To participate actively at group meetings, meetings with academic and non-academic collaborators as suggested by the supervising board and within the activities of relevant Bodies like IFIP, AIS, UKAIS and HaPoC.
  • To outline future research projects identified by this study.

Funding for the project

This project is funded by the Association for Information Technology Trust and Middlesex University London.

Project Organisation

An Advisory project board will have overall authority for plans and activities relating to the project.  The board will consist of academics from Middlesex University, possibly an external academic supervisor and members of the LEO Computers Society.  Individual activities relating to the project will report on a regular basis, frequency to be decided, to the Board.  The Board will meet regularly, not less than one meeting per year.

How to Apply

Applicants must submit the following documents to apply:

  • Fully completed Application form. Please click here to download the application form. Download and save the application first before completing.
  • Personal Statement outlining the preparedness to undertake the above specified projects
  • Academic Documentation (including transcripts and certificates)
  • Coloured copy of Passport
  • Proof of English Language (if your first language is not English)

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