Trevor Pearcey and the foundation of CSIRO’s computing services

Mrs Barbara Ainsworth1, Dr Robert Bell2

1Monash Museum of Computing History, Caulfield, Australia
2CSIRO IMT Scientific Computing, Clayton, Australia


Trevor Pearcey worked in Australia and England during the mid to late twentieth century in the new field of computer science. His interest in the use of machines to process information led to the construction of an early first-generation computer in Australia in the 1940s, making it the fourth or fifth stored program computer in the world. While much of his career was focussed on computer developments, his published works also explored ground-breaking ideas in physics and engineering.  He started his career in Australia in 1946 with the Division of Radiophysics, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, later CSIRO and worked with them until 1971. In that time, he had a major impact on the use of computers in Australia and particularly on the role of computers at CSIRO with his work on CSIR Mk1 (later called CSIRAC),  his involvement with the establishment of the Computing Research Section and the development of networking in CSIRONET.



Barbara Ainsworth is currently the part-time curator of the Monash Museum of Computing History, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University which is located at the Caulfield campus. She manages and researches the collection, and undertakes research on the history and people involved in computing at Monash University.  Currently Barbara has a special interest in the biography of Dr Trevor Pearcey and his career in computing. Barbara is also interested in the wider general history of computing in Australia which provides context and perspective for our more specialized topics as well as the role of women in the computing industry prior to the 1970s in Australia.

Barbara completed an Honours degree in Prehistory at ANU in 1979 with a thesis on the adoption of metal into the Australian Aboriginal toolkit after European contact. Later, she completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies in 1984 and a MA (Public History) at Monash University in 1992. She previously held the position of Curator, Gold Museum at The Sovereign Hill Museums Association, Ballarat from 1986-1993.



AeRO is the industry association focused on eResearch in Australasia. We play a critical coordination role for our members, who are actively transforming research via Information Technology. Organisations join AeRO to advance their own capabilities and services, to collaborate and to network with peers. AeRO believes researchers and the sector significantly benefit from greater communication, coordination and sharing among the increasingly different and evolving service providers.

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