James H. Wilkinson

Jim Wilkinson
Born James Hardy Wilkinson
(1919-09-27)27 September 1919
Strood, England
Died 5 October 1986(1986-10-05) (aged 67)
Teddington, England
Nationality English
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Known for
Scientific career
Fields Numerical Analysis
Institutions National Physical Laboratory[2]

James Hardy Wilkinson FRS[1] (27 September 1919 – 5 October 1986) was a prominent figure in the field of numerical analysis, a field at the boundary of applied mathematics and computer science particularly useful to physics and engineering.[3][4][5]


Born in Strood, England, he attended the Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester. He studied the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated as Senior Wrangler.[6]


Taking up war work in 1940, he began working on ballistics but transferred to the National Physical Laboratory[2] in 1946, where he worked with Alan Turing on the ACE[7] computer project. Later, Wilkinson's interests took him into the numerical analysis field, where he discovered many significant algorithms.

Awards and honours

Wilkinson received the Turing Award in 1970 "for his research in numerical analysis to facilitate the use of the high-speed digital computer, having received special recognition for his work in computations in linear algebra and 'backward' error analysis." In the same year, he also gave the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) John von Neumann Lecture.

Wilkinson also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1973.[8]

He was elected as a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1974 for his pioneering work in computer science.

The J. H. Wilkinson Prize for Numerical Software is named in his honour.

Personal life

Wilkinson married Heather Ware in 1945. He died at home of a heart attack on October 5, 1986. His wife and their son survived him, a daughter having predeceased him.

Selected works


  1. 1 2 Fox, L. (1987). "James Hardy Wilkinson 27 September 1919-5 October 1986". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 33: 670–708. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1987.0024.
  2. 1 2 Wilkinson, J. H. (1961). "Error Analysis of Direct Methods of Matrix Inversion". Journal of the ACM. 8 (3): 281. doi:10.1145/321075.321076.
  3. O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "James H. Wilkinson", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  4. James H. Wilkinson author profile page at the ACM Digital Library
  5. James Hardy Wilkinson at DBLP Bibliography Server
  6. "Easily at the top of the First Class", from the MacTutor biography.
  7. Wilkinson, James H. (1980). "Turing's Work at the National Physical Laboratory and the Construction of Pilot ACE, DEUCE and ACE". In Metropolis, Nicholas; Howlett, J.; Rota, Gian-Carlo. A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century. Academic Press. ISBN 0124916503.
  8. webperson@hw.ac.uk. "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". www1.hw.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
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