Computer ◆ Conservation ◆ Society


March 2019

Doron Swade MBE PhD MSc C.Eng. FBCS CITP

BCS Honorary Fellowship Award


Doron Swade MBE is an engineer, historian, museum professional and author, specialising in the history of computing. He is especially known for his work on the computer pioneer Charles Babbage and his Difference Engine. A brief summary of Doron’s academic background includes his studies of physics, electronics engineering, machine intelligence, history, philosophy of science; gaining degrees from a number of universities including the University of Cape Town, the University of Cambridge, and with a PhD in the history of computing from University College, London.

Doron has held various professorships and other senior positions in universities, and is currently Research Fellow in Computer Science at Royal Holloway, University of London.

As a museum professional, he has been a curator at the Science Museum in London and the Computer History Museum in in Silicon Valley, California, United States. At the Science Museum, he curated the computing and electronics collections, and rose to be Assistant Director and Head of Collections. He has pioneered the philosophy, policy and working practices of computer restoration. He has held the positions of Visiting Professor (History of Computing) at Portsmouth University, and Visiting Professor (Interaction Design) at the Royal College of Art. He is Museum Mentor at The National Museum of Computing.

Doron is an internationally recognised authority on the work of English computer pioneer Charles Babbage. He masterminded a project at the Science Museum to build a working replica of Babbage’s Difference Engine to original 19th-century designs. He is currently Research Fellow (Hon) (Computer Science) at Royal Holloway, University of London, researching Babbage’s calculating engines, to understand whether Babbage’s Analytical Engine was a feasible computer based on Babbage'’s work, and to build a simulation.

He is author of authoritative books and many articles on the history of computing, on curatorship, and on Charles Babbage and his calculating engines.

Doron was a co-founder of the Computer Conservation Society in 1989. Resurrection, the Computer Conservation Society Bulletin, stated in its first issue that the Computer Conservation Society was “the brainchild of Doron Swade, Curator of Computing at the Science Museum”. At that time the computer industry had existed for about half a century. Doron himself has recounted that he conceived the Computer Conservation Society so as to provide a social and organisational focus for a community of pioneering computer professionals retired or otherwise no longer directly involved in the industry, who had the enthusiasm and energy to participate and contribute in activities relevant to the systems on which they had worked, to preserve their technological and historical significance. Doron propounded his vision to two people at the British Computer Society, the then Technical Vice-President, Roger Johnson, and the late Tony Sale, the BCS’s Technical Director. The Computer Conservation Society was thus formed as a Specialist Group of BCS running in partnership with the Science Museum, with an initial committee comprising Doron Swade, Tony Sale and Roger Johnson, together with two BCS Past Presidents.

Doron Swade is a Fellow of BCS and a Chartered Engineer.

He was awarded an MBE for services to the history of computing in the UK New Year Honours 2009 list.

He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Computer Conservation Society, for his sustained and continuing activities over many years in relation to computer conservation: as a leading authority on Charles Babbage, team leader for construction of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2, researcher of Babbage’s Analytical Engine, historian of computing and writer on the history of computing; and as a co-founder of the Computer Conservation Society.

By these achievements described above, many still continuing, in summary:

  • his pioneering activities on the philosophy, policy and working practices of computer restoration at museums of science and computing, whose resources are utilised for the benefit of the public;
  • his achievements in relation to the history of computing and education in computing, and his publications in this connection, advancing knowledge and education n for the benefit of the public;
  • his continuing achievements as a leading authority on Charles Babbage and his machines, advancing such knowledge and education for the benefit of the public;
  • as co-founder of the Computer Conservation Society, whose status is as a Specialist Group of BCS, the principal society devoted to computer conservation in the UK and probably in the world, and whose objectives concerning computing are for the benefit of the public;

Doron Swade MBE has made outstanding contributions to the charitable objectives of BCS over an extended period, still continuing, by promoting the study and practice of Computing and in advancing such knowledge and education for the benefit of the public.