Beatrice Helen Worsley

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Beatrice Helen Worsley
Born (1921-10-18)October 18, 1921
Queretaro, Mexico
Died May 8, 1972(1972-05-08) (aged 50)
Waterloo, Ontario
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater University of Toronto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Newnham College, Cambridge
Occupation Computer Scientist
Known for Pioneering, Canadian computer scientist
Parents Joel Worsley, Beatrice Worlsey

Beatrice "Trixie" Helen Worsley (October 18, 1921 – May 8, 1972)[1] was the first female computer scientist in Canada.[2] [3]


Beatrice Helen Worsley was born at Queretaro, Mexico in 1921.[4] Her father, Joel Worsley, was an Englishman who had been living in Mexico since 1908, working a textile mill owned by the family of his wife, Beatrice Marie Worsley. They had two children, Beatrice and her brother, Charles Robert Worsley.[4]

In 1929, her family moved to Toronto, Canada. She attended the Bishop Strachan School and did well, her headmistress describing her as one of the most brilliant pupils ever at the school.[4] She graduated in 1939, receiving the Governor General’s Award for the highest overall grade.[4][3] In 1944 she graduated from the University of Toronto with first class honours in Mathematics and Physics. [5][3]

After graduation, she enlisted in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service and, after basic training, was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant and assigned to the shore–base HMCS Stadacona where she was engaged on research in Degaussing techniques, to protect ships from Magnetic mines.[4]

In 1947, she received an S.M. in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; her thesis title was A Mathematical Survey of Computing Devices with an Appendix on Error Analysis of Differential Analyzers.[3]


In September 1947 Worsley and J. Perham Stanley were hired by the University of Toronto Computation Centre as junior assistants. During this time Worsley built a differential analyzer with Meccano (a metal construction system designed for building models), based on an article by Douglas Hartree and Arthur Porter from 1935. Her analyzer was only slightly modified from the original design, but offered small improvements to the electrical power distribution system, the design of the torque amplifiers, and the output pen support.[3] In 1949 Worsley and Stanley went to Cambridge University to work with Maurice Wilkes, who was in the process of completing the EDSAC computer. Worsley wrote the first program to successfully run on EDSAC, which was a program that generated a table of squares. When the new computer Ferut was installed, Worsley was one of the people who wrote Transcode, a programming system which allowed programmers to write programs in a simplified language that was then compiled into Ferut's more obscure machine language.[3] In 1952 Worsley received a Ph.D. from Cambridge, making her possibly the first woman to earn a doctorate in the field of computers.[3] Her dissertation, "Serial Programming for Real and Idealized Digital Calculating Machines", was the first PhD dissertation involving modern computers.[4]

In 1965 Worsley became a founding member of the Queen's Computing Centre at Queen's University, where she developed some of the early courses given by the Centre.[3] On May 8, 1972 Worsley died of a heart attack; in 1971 she had donated a large number of her papers to the Smithsonian Institution. She left money to the University of Cambridge to establish a fund, known as the Lundgren Fund, for the purpose of making awards to non-British Ph.D students studying at the university.[6]

Worsley published about 17 papers in professional journals and a large number of articles in the Quarterly Bulletin of the Computing and Data Processing Society of Canada. She was active in both this association and the Computer Science Association and helped in the merger of the two organizations.[3]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ The Link: The BSS Magazine, article title Heritage
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Keith Smillie, Beatrice (Trixie) Worsley
  4. ^ a b c d e f Campbell, Scott (October–December 2003). "Beatrice Helen Worsley: Canada’s Female Computer Pioneer". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing: 51. 
  5. ^ The Link: The BSS Magazine, article title Heritage
  6. ^ Statutes and Ordinances of the University of Cambridge 2007. Cambridge University Press. 2007. p. 806. ISBN 0521706920.