Kathleen Booth

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Kathleen Booth
Kathleen Hylda Valerie Britten

(1922-07-09)9 July 1922
Died29 September 2022(2022-09-29) (aged 100)
Alma materUniversity of London
Known forInvented the first assembly language for her University's computer
(m. 1950; died 2009)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
InstitutionsBirkbeck College

Kathleen Hylda Valerie Booth (née Britten, 9 July 1922 – 29 September 2022) was a British computer scientist and mathematician who wrote the first assembly language and designed the assembler and autocode for the first computer systems at Birkbeck College, University of London.[1] She helped design three different machines including the ARC (Automatic Relay Calculator), SEC (Simple Electronic Computer), and APE(X)C.

Early life and education[edit]

Kathleen Britten was born in Stourbridge, Worcestershire, England,[2] on 9 July 1922.[3][4] She obtained a BSc in mathematics from the University of London in 1944 and went on to get a PhD in Applied Mathematics in 1950. She married her colleague Andrew Donald Booth in 1950 and had two children.[5]


Kathleen Booth worked at Birkbeck College, 1946–62.[6] She travelled to the United States as Andrew Booth's research assistant in 1947, visiting with John von Neumann at Princeton.[7] While at Princeton, she co-authored "General Considerations in the Design of an All Purpose Electronic Digital Computer," [8] [9] describing modifications to the original ARC redesign to the ARC2 using a von Neumann architecture.[6] Part of her contribution was the ARC assembly language.[10] She also built and maintained ARC components.[11]

Kathleen and Andrew Booth's team at Birkbeck were considered the smallest of the early British computer groups. From 1947 to 1953, they produced three machines: ARC (Automatic Relay Computer) built with Xenia Sweeting,[9] SEC (Simple Electronic Computer), and APE(X)C (All-purpose Electronic (Rayon) Computer).[12] She and Mr. Booth worked on the same team. [6] This was considered a remarkable achievement due to the size of the group and the limited funds at its disposal. Although APE(X)C eventually led to the HEC series manufactured by the British Tabulating Machine Company, the small scale of the Birkbeck group did not place it in the front rank of British computer activity.[13]

Booth regularly published papers concerning her work on the ARC and APE(X)C systems and co-wrote "Automatic Digital Calculators" (1953) which illustrated the 'Planning and Coding' programming style.[14] In 1957, She, her husband, and J.C. Jennings co-founded Birkbeck College's Department of Numerical Automation,[15] now the School of Computer Science and Information Systems, in 1957.[6] In 1958, she taught a programming course.[6]

In 1958, Booth wrote one of the first books describing how to program APE(X)C computers.[16]

From 1944 she was a Junior Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough.[5] From 1946 to 1962, Booth was a Research Scientist at British Rubber Producers' Research Association and for ten years from 1952 to 1962 she was Research Fellow and Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London.[5]

Booth's research on neural networks led to successful programs simulating ways in which animals recognise patterns and characters.[6] She and her husband resigned suddenly from Birkbeck College in 1961 after a chair was not conferred on her husband despite his massive contributions; an ICT 1400 computer was donated to the Department of Numerical Automation but was in fact installed in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.[6]

In 1962, after leaving Birkbeck College the Booth family moved to Canada to where she became a Research Fellow, Lecturer and Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan until 1972.[5] At Lakehead University in Canada she became the Professor of Mathematics from 1972 to 1978.[4] Kathleen Booth retired from Lakehead in 1978. Her last current paper was published in 1993 at the age of 71. Titled "Using neural nets to identify marine mammals" it was co-authored by Dr. Ian J. M. Booth, her son.[17]

Personal life and death[edit]

She died on 29 September 2022, at the age of 100.[18][5]


  • Booth, Andrew D; Britten, Kathleen HV (September 1947), "Principles and Progress in the Construction of High-Speed Digital Computers", Quart. Journ. Mech. And Applied Math., 2 (2): 182–197, doi:10.1093/qjmam/2.2.182.
  • Coding system for the APE(X)C, AU: Murdoch, archived from the original on 7 June 2011, retrieved 22 June 2010.
  • Booth A.D. and Britten K.H.V. (1947) Coding for A.R.C., Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
  • Booth A.D. and Britten K.H.V. (August 1947, 2nd Edition) General considerations in the design of an all-purpose electronic digital computer, Institute for Advance Study, Princeton[8]
  • Booth A.D. and Britten K.H.V. (1948) "The accuracy of atomic co-ordinates derived from Fourier series in X-ray crystallography Part V", Proc. Roy. Soc. Vol A 193 pp 305–310
  • Booth A.D. and Booth K.H.V. (1953) Automatic Digital Calculators, Butterworth-Heinmann (Academic Press) London
  • K.H.V Booth, (1958) Programming for an Automatic Digital Calculator, Butterworths, London


  1. ^ Booth, Kathleen HV, "Machine language for Automatic Relay Computer", Birkbeck College Computation Laboratory, University of London
  2. ^ "Kathleen Booth". Centre for Computing History. Archived from the original on 30 October 2022. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  3. ^ Dyson, George (2012). Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. Pantheon Books. p. xvii. ISBN 978-0375422775.
  4. ^ a b Baker, Nina C. "39: Kathleen Booth". Magnificent Women. Archived from the original on 12 January 2023. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Kathleen Booth, computer pioneer who made a major breakthrough in programming – obituary". The Telegraph. 25 October 2022. Archived from the original on 31 October 2022. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Johnson, Roger (2008), School of computer science and information systems: A short history (PDF), 50 years of Computing, UK: Birkbeck School of Computing, archived (PDF) from the original on 23 September 2015, retrieved 27 August 2013.
  7. ^ Lavington, Simon (2012), Alan Turing and His Contemporaries: Building the World's First Computers, ISBN 978-1-78017-105-0
  8. ^ a b Booth, Andrew Donald; Britten, Kathleen Hylda Valerie (1947), General Considerations in the Design of an All Purpose Electronic Digital Computer (PDF), US: Andrew D. Booth & Kathleen H.V. Britten, retrieved 8 March 2023{{citation}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link).
  9. ^ a b https://historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=652
  10. ^ "History", About, UK: Birkbeck School of Computing, archived from the original on 17 February 2020, retrieved 22 June 2010.
  11. ^ Kathleen Booth (nee Britten) at the ARC relay, parallel, A.U. which she constructed, UK: Birkbeck school of Computing, 1948, archived from the original on 4 March 2016, retrieved 27 August 2013.
  12. ^ Lavington, Simon (1980). Early British computers: the story of vintage computers and the people who built them. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0719008030.
  13. ^ Campbell-Kelly, Martin (April 1982), "The Birkbeck College Machines, The Development of Computer Programming in Britain (1945 to 1955)", Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE, 4 (2): 121–139, doi:10.1109/MAHC.1982.10016, S2CID 14861159.
  14. ^ Cliff B Jones, John L Lloyd, ed. (1998). Dependable and historic computing. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. p. 27. ISBN 978-3-642-24540-4.
  15. ^ "Birkbeck offers Kathleen Booth Anniversary PhD Scholarship to support representation in Computing". Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. Birkbeck University of London. Archived from the original on 23 November 2022. Retrieved 23 November 2022.
  16. ^ Booth, Kathleen HV (1958), Programming for an Automatic Digital Calculator, London: Butterworths.
  17. ^ Dufresne, Steven (21 August 2018). "Kathleen Booth: Assembling Early Computers While Inventing Assembly". Hackaday. Hackaday. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  18. ^ Best, Katrinah. "Remembering Professor Kathleen Booth, 1922-2022". Birkbeck Perspectives. Archived from the original on 8 October 2022. Retrieved 7 October 2022.

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