James H. Wilkinson

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Jim Wilkinson
James H. Wilkinson.jpg
Jim Wilkinson with his Turing Award
James Hardy Wilkinson

(1919-09-27)27 September 1919
Strood, England
Died5 October 1986(1986-10-05) (aged 67)
Teddington, England
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsNumerical Analysis
Numerical linear algebra
InstitutionsNational Physical Laboratory[2]

James Hardy Wilkinson FRS[1] (27 September 1919 – 5 October 1986) was a prominent figure in the field of numerical analysis, a field at the boundary of applied mathematics and computer science particularly useful to physics and engineering.[3][4][5]


Born in Strood, England, he won a Foundation Scholarship to Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester.[6] He studied the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated as Senior Wrangler.[7]


Taking up war work in 1940, he began working on ballistics but transferred to the National Physical Laboratory[2] in 1946, where he worked with Alan Turing on the ACE[8] computer project. Later, Wilkinson's interests took him into the numerical analysis field, where he discovered many significant algorithms.

Awards and honours[edit]

Wilkinson received the Turing Award in 1970 "for his research in numerical analysis to facilitate the use of the high-speed digital computer, having received special recognition for his work in computations in linear algebra and 'backward' error analysis." In the same year, he also gave the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) John von Neumann Lecture.

Wilkinson also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1973.[9]

He was elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1974 for his pioneering work in computer science.

The James H. Wilkinson Prize in Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing, established in 1982 by SIAM, and J. H. Wilkinson Prize for Numerical Software, established in 1991, are named in his honour.

In 1987, Wilkinson won the Chauvenet Prize of the Mathematical Association of America, for his paper "The Perfidious Polynomial".[10]

Personal life[edit]

Wilkinson married Heather Ware in 1945. He died at home of a heart attack on October 5, 1986. His wife and their son survived him, a daughter having predeceased him.

Selected works[edit]

  • Wilkinson, James Hardy (1963). Rounding Errors in Algebraic Processes (1 ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 9780486679990. MR 0161456. (REAP)
  • Wilkinson, James Hardy (1965). The Algebraic Eigenvalue Problem. Monographs on Numerical Analysis (1 ed.). Oxford University Press / Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198534183. Retrieved 11 February 2016. (AEP)
  • with Christian Reinsch: Handbook for Automatic Computation, Volume II, Linear Algebra, Springer-Verlag, 1971
  • The Perfidious Polynomial. In: Studies in Numerical Analysis, pp. 1–28, MAA Stud. Math., 24, Math. Assoc. America, Washington, DC, 1984


  1. ^ a b Fox, L. (1987). "James Hardy Wilkinson 27 September 1919-5 October 1986". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 33: 670–708. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1987.0024.
  2. ^ a b Wilkinson, J. H. (1961). "Error Analysis of Direct Methods of Matrix Inversion". Journal of the ACM. 8 (3): 281–330. doi:10.1145/321075.321076. hdl:10338.dmlcz/103862. S2CID 13076225.
  3. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "James H. Wilkinson", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews
  4. ^ James H. Wilkinson author profile page at the ACM Digital Library
  5. ^ James Hardy Wilkinson at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  6. ^ "J. H. Wilkinson - A.M. Turing Award Laureate". amturing.acm.org. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Easily at the top of the First Class", from the MacTutor biography.
  8. ^ Wilkinson, James H. (1980). "Turing's Work at the National Physical Laboratory and the Construction of Pilot ACE, DEUCE and ACE". In Metropolis, Nicholas; Howlett, J.; Rota, Gian-Carlo (eds.). A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century. Academic Press. ISBN 0124916503.
  9. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  10. ^ Wilkinson, James H. (1984). Golub, Gene H. (ed.). Studies in numerical analysis. [Washington, D.C.]: Mathematical Association of America. pp. 1–28. ISBN 0-88385-126-1. OCLC 12110138.

External links[edit]