Philip Woodward

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For the Australian judge, see Philip Woodward (judge).

Philip Woodward (born 6 September 1919) is a British mathematician, radar engineer and horologist. He has achieved notable success in all three fields. Before retirement, he was a Deputy Chief Scientific Officer at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) of the British Ministry of Defence in Malvern, Worcestershire.[1]

Achievements in mathematics and engineering[edit]

Philip Woodward's career in the Scientific Civil Service spanned four decades. He was responsible for one of the UK's first electronic computers (TREAC) followed by the UK's first solid state computer (RREAC). He is the author of the book Probability and Information Theory, with Applications to Radar.[2]

During World War II, Philip Woodward developed a mathematical beam-shaping technique for radar antennae, which was later to become standard in the analysis of communication signals. His principal achievement in radar was to evaluate the ambiguities inherent in all radar signals and to show how Bayesian probability can be used as part of the design process to eliminate all but the wanted information the echoes might contain.

In 1956, Woodward’s work on radar information theory led Nobel Prizewinning physicist John H. Van Vleck to invite him to give a postgraduate course on random processes at Harvard University. Professor E. T. Jaynes in his posthumously published book [3] recognized Woodward as having been "many years ahead of his time" and as having shown "prophetic insight into what was to come" in the application of probability and statistics to the recovery of data from noisy samples. In the 1960s Philip Woodward's computer software team in Malvern provided the Royal Radar Establishment with the ALGOL 68R compiler, the world's first implementation of the programming language ALGOL 68, and provided the armed services with their first standard high-level programming language, Coral 66, for the small military computers of the day.

His academic posts have included Honorary Professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Birmingham and Visiting Professor in Cybernetics at the University of Reading. When in 2000 the Woodward Building was opened by Sir John Chisholm at DERA (now privatized as QinetiQ), guests were given complimentary clocks as souvenirs of the occasion and of Philip Woodward's horological interests.

In June 2005, the Royal Academy of Engineering gave Woodward its first Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing him as an outstanding pioneer of Radar and for his work in precision mechanical horology.[4] In 2009 he received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Dennis J. Picard Medal for Radar Technologies and Applications: “for pioneering work of fundamental importance in radar waveform design, including the Woodward Ambiguity Function, the standard tool for waveform and matched filter analysis.”[5]

Achievements in horology[edit]

In retirement Philip Woodward wrote another classic book, My Own Right Time [6] fondly known as MORT, a record of his passion for horology. Along with many other topics, MORT describes in detail the design of his clocks, including his masterpiece "W5".

Woodward contributed dozens of articles to horological periodicals over more than 30 years. From his experience as a mathematician and analyst of complex systems, he has made major contributions to scientific horology, including the definitive analysis of balance springs and much work on the properties of pendulums. In 2006 the British Horological Institute published a hard-cover collection of 63 articles with new notes by Dr. Woodward. The collection, “Woodward on Time”,[7] originally compiled by Bill Taylor, ASC. became instantly known as "WOT". It was very well received.

W5 clock[edit]

Philip Woodward with W5 at the British Horological Institute

"W5" was built in a small workshop with the simplest of tools, but displays an elegance of concept and design rarely seen in the history of the science. It was acclaimed by Jonathan Betts, the Senior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich as "the nearest approach to perfection by any mechanical timekeeper not employing a vacuum chamber". Woodward built even the case, assembling it with intricate but invisible secret mitre joints.

The eminent horologist Anthony Randall carried on a long series of timekeeping trials of W5, showing unprecedented accuracy over periods of more than 100 days. Although the clock was widely celebrated, and Dr. Woodward published a series of ever-more-detailed articles on its construction[citation needed] to encourage others to carry its ideas forward, no one completed another clock like it for more than twenty years. Finally, in 2006 the Australian clockmaker David Walter (now of Buellton, California) succeeded in making a highly skeletonized version that while quite different in details, closely followed the basic Woodward design.

Personal[edit]

Woodward was born on 6 September 1919 and educated at Blundell's School in Tiverton, Devon. He lives in Malvern, Worcestershire, England.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lars Falk: ”Dedication: P. M. Woodward and the Ambiguity Function” (pp. xiii-xx in "Principles of Waveform Diversity and Design", edited by Michael Wicks, Eric Mokole, Shannon Blunt, Richard Schneible, Vincent Amuso, SciTech Publishing, 2010).
  2. ^ Woodward, Philip (1953) Probability and Information Theory, with Applications to Radar McGraw-Hill, New York; Pergamon Press, London, ISBN 0-89006-103-3, EAN: 9780890061039
  3. ^ Jaynes, E. T. (2003) Probability Theory - The Logic of Science Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-59271-0, ISBN 0-521-59271-2) DOI 10.2277/0521592712
  4. ^ Royal Academy of Engineering news releases. Retrieved 6 July 2009
  5. ^ Malvern Gazette Retrieved 6 July 2009
  6. ^ Woodward, Philip (2006) Woodward on Time, Published by Bill Taylor and the British Horological Institute. ISBN 978-0-9509621-6-0
  7. ^ Taylor-BHI (2006)