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Frederic C. Williams

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F.C. Williams
Frederic Calland Williams

(1911-06-26)26 June 1911
Died11 August 1977(1977-08-11) (aged 66)
Other namesF.C. Williams
Freddie Williams
EducationStockport Grammar School
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
ThesisProblems of spontaneous oscillation in electrical circuits (1936)
Doctoral students

Sir Frederic Calland Williams, CBE FRS[3][4] (26 June 1911 – 11 August 1977),[3][5] known as F.C. Williams or Freddie Williams,[6] was an English engineer, a pioneer in radar and computer technology.[7][8][9][10][11][12]


Williams was born in Romiley, Stockport, and educated at Stockport Grammar School.[3] He gained a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Manchester where he was awarded Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. He was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1936[13] for research carried out as a postgraduate student of Magdalen College, Oxford.[14]

Research and career[edit]

Working at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), Williams was a substantial contributor during World War II to the development of radar.[15]

In 1946 he was appointed as head of the Electrical Engineering Department of the University of Manchester. There, with Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, he built the first electronic stored-program digital computer, the Manchester Baby.[15]

Williams is also recognised for his invention of the Williams tube, an early memory device.[15] He supervised the research of his PhD students Richard Grimsdale[1] and Tom Kilburn.[2]

Awards and honours[edit]

Williams was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1950. His nomination reads

During the war F.C. Williams was the chief authority and the main source of ideas on the electrical circuits associated with many radar devices evolved at the Telecommunications Radio Establishment. Many of the extreme refinements of technique embodied in devices such as I.F.F., G.E.E. and Oboe, were due to him and were made possible by his deep knowledge of physical principles. Since the war he has developed successfully an electric storage tube for the proposed Manchester digital computing machine. The storage depends for its success on most delicate properties of wave form produced by electronic bombardment of a spot on a screen.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Williams died in Manchester in 1977, aged 66.


  1. ^ a b Grimsdale, Richard Lawrence (1955). Transistor Digital Computer. exlibrisgroup.com (PhD thesis). University of Manchester. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Kilburn, Tom (1948). A storage system for use with binary digital computing machines. manchester.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Manchester. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.488439.
  3. ^ a b c Kilburn, T.; Piggott, L. S. (1978). "Frederic Calland Williams. 26 June 1911 – 11 August 1977". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 24: 583–604. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1978.0020.
  4. ^ a b "EC/1950/25 Williams, Sir Frederic Calland: Library and Archive Catalogue". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 8 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Corrigenda: Frederic Calland Williams. 26 June 1911 – 11 August 1977". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 25: 0–1. 1979. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1979.0001.
  6. ^ "Frederic Calland Williams (1911–1977)". Archived from the original on 7 January 2010.
  7. ^ Williams, Frederic; Kilburn, Tom (1948). "Electronic Digital Computers". Nature. 162 (4117): 487. doi:10.1038/162487a0. S2CID 4110351. Archived from the original on 6 April 2009.
  8. ^ Anderson David, Delve Janet (2007) Frederic Calland Williams: the Manchester Baby's chief engineer IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 29 (4): 90-102
  9. ^ Williams, F.C.; Kilburn, T. (1949). "A storage system for use with binary-digital computing machines". Proceedings of the IEE - Part II: Power Engineering. 96 (50): 183–200. doi:10.1049/pi-2.1949.0078.
  10. ^ Anderson, D. P. (2009). "Interview An interview with Maurice Wilkes". Communications of the ACM. 52 (9): 39–42. doi:10.1145/1562164.1562180. S2CID 31699280.
  11. ^ Shelburne, B. J.; Burton, C. P. (1998). "Early programs on the Manchester Mark I Prototype". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. 20 (3): 4. doi:10.1109/85.707570.
  12. ^ Burton, C. (1998). "The Manchester baby reborn". IEE Review. 44 (3): 113–117. doi:10.1049/ir:19980302.
  13. ^ Williams, Frederic Calland (1936). Problems of spontaneous oscillation in electrical circuits. solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.673482.
  14. ^ Anon (2017). "Williams, Prof. Sir Frederic (Calland)". Who's Who & Who Was Who (online Oxford University Press ed.). Oxford: A & C Black. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U161019. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  15. ^ a b c Napper, Brian (October 2000). "Frederic Calland Williams (1911–1977)". University of Manchester. Retrieved 11 December 2015.