John Westcott

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John Westcott
John Hugh Westcott

(1920-11-03)3 November 1920
Died10 October 2014(2014-10-10) (aged 93)
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society (1983)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsControl Systems
InstitutionsImperial College London
Thesis Studies in Analysis of Servomechanisms with the Development of a New Performance Criterion  (1951)
Doctoral advisorColin Cherry[2]
Doctoral students

John Hugh Westcott FRS,[1] FREng,[3] Hon FIEE (3 November 1920 – 10 October 2014)[1] was a British scientist specialising in control systems and Professor of Computing and Automation at Imperial College London.


Westcott was educated at Wandsworth Grammar School, the City and Guilds College, both in London, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[4] His career began in radar research during World War II. After a year in Germany with the Allied Commission, he obtained a scholarship to the MIT where many scientists returning from the services were addressing the early possibilities of computer applications.[5]

He was the first to lecture on the new field of cybernetics in Britain and was a member of the Ratio Club with Grey Walter, Alan Turing, Giles Brindley and others from various fields, who met between 1949 and 1952 to discuss brain mechanisms and related issues.[6] He researched servo-mechanisms at Imperial College London, where he headed the new Department of Computing and Control from 1966. A founder-member in 1957 of the International Federation of Automatic Control, one of the first professional bodies to liaise successfully across the Iron Curtain, he was a consultant to companies such as Shell, ICI, Westlands and British Steel Corporation in applying control systems to large and complex processes. In the 1970s and 1980s he also worked on macro-economic modelling and computer modelling for policy-evaluation.

Awards and honours[edit]

Westcott was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1983[1] and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 1980.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Mayne, David Quinn (2015). "John Hugh Westcott 3 November 1920 — 10 October 2014". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 61. Royal Society publishing: 541–554. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2015.0017. ISSN 0080-4606.
  2. ^ a b John Westcott at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ a b "List of Fellows". Archived from the original on 8 June 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  4. ^ Who's Who 2001. A & C Black, London. 2001. ISBN 0-7136-5432-5.
  5. ^ "John Westcott obituary". The Guardian. 22 December 2014. Archived from the original on 20 April 2016.
  6. ^ The origins of British cybernetics: the Ratio Club