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High Performance Computing

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The machines owned by the Cambridge-Cranfield HPCF are named after influential scientists. Brief biographies are provided below


James Clerk Maxwell

Picture of James Clerk Maxwell James Clerk Maxwell was born in Edinburgh in 1831. In 1847 he went to Edinburgh University where he studied under William Hamilton. He came to Cambridge in 1850, first to Peterhouse and then Trinity College. In 1854 he graduated with a degree as second wrangler in mathematics. Having held chairs at Marischal College, Aberdeen and King's College London Maxwell was elected to the Royal Society in 1861 and in 1871 he became the first Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge. Maxwell's most celebrated contributions to physics were his work on the kinetic theory of gases and the theory of electromagnetism. The latter included the famous Maxwell equations which admit solutions which are self-propagating waves travelling at the speed of light. He also made contributions to the areas of optics and colour vision. He died in 1879 aged 48.
A longer biography is available.


Rosalind Franklin

Picture of Rosalind Franklin Rosalind Franklin was born in 1920. She studied at Newnham College graduating in 1941. She received her doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge in 1945 for work on carbon microstructures. After 3 years in Paris, during which she learnt X-ray diffraction techniques, she took a post at the University of London. It was here her most important work was done, applying X-ray diffraction to study the structure of biological molecules. Her work on DNA was crucial in determining its double helix structure. She died in 1958 aged just 37.
More information is available.


Douglas Hartree

Picture of Douglas Hartree Douglas Rayner Hartree was born in Cambridge in 1897. He studied Natural Sciences and graduated from St John's College in 1921. He was a research student then college fellow until 1929 when he was appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at Manchester. After WW11 he returned to Cambridge as Plummer Professor of Mathematical Physics.
Hartree's field was numerical analysis and he pioneered the use of both analog and digital computers to solve complex problems. His methods for finding numerical solutions of the many-body Schrodinger equation play an important role in much of the current work undertaken on the CCHPCF.
There is an interesting article on the Mechanical Differential Analyser, a analog computer which Hartree built in Manchester in 1934 using Meccano! (A similar machine was built in Cambridge a year later)
A longer biography of D.R. Hartree.


Max Perutz

Picture of Max Perutz Max Ferdinand Perutz was born in 1914 in Austria. He started as a Ph.D. student at the Cavendish Laboratory in 1936, applying X-ray crystallography to proteins. During the 1950's the first protein structures were solved; hemoglobin by Perutz and myoglobin by his colleague John Kendrew. Perutz and Kendrew were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for chemistry. Perutz moved from the Cavendish Laboratory in 1962 with the formation of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.


Dorothy Hodgkin

Picture of Dorothy Hodgkin Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin was born in Cairo in 1910. She studied Chemistry at Oxford before moving to Cambridge to work with J.D. Bernal on X-ray crystallography. After completing her Ph.D she returned to Oxford and continued to work on the structural determination of biological compounds including penicillin and vitamin B12. She was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She died in 1994.


Nevill Mott

Origin2000 Nevill Francis Mott was born in Leeds in 1905. He studied Mathematics and Physics at St John's College going on to research in Nuclear Physics. At the age to 28 he moved to Bristol as Professor of Theoretical Physics. He switched fields to solid-state physics, and was one of the first people to apply the newly developed theory of quantum mechanics to produce predictive models for the behavior of materials. Mott returned to Cambridge in 1954 as Cavendish Professor. He continued his work in solid-state physics; his work with Phillip Anderson on disordered systems was cited when he was awarded the 1977 Nobel prize for Physics.
St. John's college have a more detailed biography.


Charles Babbage

Picture of Charles Babbge Charles Babbage was born in London in 1791. He entered Trinity College in 1810 and studied mathematics. Early in his life he realised the power and usefulness of an automated calculating machine, free from the inaccuracy of human calculation. His ideas were the precursor of modern day computers. His first calculating machine, the difference engine, was completed in 1822. He obtained government money to build a larger version, capable of automatically producing log tables. However the technology of the time was not capable of producing the required engineering tolerances and the project was never completed. Babbage's next machine, the Analytic Engine, was a much grander vision. Although it never progressed from a drawing it possessed similar logical units to a modern day computer with I/O, memory etc.
At Cambridge Babbage held the Lucasian chair of mathematics from 1828 to 1839. He died in 1871.
There is a more detailed biography.


Alan Turing

Picture of Alan Turing Alan Turing was born in London in 1912. He studied mathematics at King's College, graduating in 1934. He continued his studies at Cambridge and Princeton writing papers on statistics and mathematical logic. His work on logic led him to develop the concept of the "Turing Machine". This abstract model was the forerunner of the modern computer. It was a multipurpose machine that could execute a stored program to arrive at the correct solution to a problem. In just 9 years, electronic technology was sufficiently developed to build such a device.
During the war he worked for the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. With others he designed a machine to decode messages sent by the German "Enigma" machines. After the war he continued to work on computing, but also contributed to a wide variety of fields including Quantum mechanics and biology. His study of computers and intelligence essentially introduced the field of Artificial Intelligence. He was appointed a Reader at Manchester in 1948 and died in 1954.
There is a more detailed biography.


Ada Lovelace

Picture of Ada, Countess of Lovelace Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace was the daughter of the famous poet Lord Byron. She was born in London in 1815. Her mother encouraged her studies in Mathematics. She meet Charles Babbage in 1833 and was fascinated by the Difference Engine. She maintained a friendship with Babbage and described how his Analytic engine could be programmed. This is considered by many to be the first ever computer program. She died in 1852 aged 37.
There is a more detailed biography.


Robert Hooke

Drawing of a flea from Hooke's Micrographia Robert Hooke was born in 1635 on the Isle of Wight. He was one of the most brilliant of seventeenth century scientists, his inventions and discoveries covered nearly all scientific fields. Little is known of Hooke's life and no portrait survives. We shall list but a few of his discoveries. He designed a spring controlled clock, developing a theory of elasticity in the process. He proposed the wave theory of light and the inverse square law of gravity which was later set upon a firmer mathematical basis by Newton. He was a skilled instrument maker, producing the first Gregorian reflecting telescope. He used his compound microscope to study biological and geological specimens detailing his observations in the book Micrographia published in 1665. He died on 1702.
A very comprehensive website on Robert Hooke can be found at http://www.roberthooke.org.uk/
There is also a more detailed biography.