Computer Pioneer – Mr Thomas Flowers – The Times 1977

Many thanks to Brian Randell from Newcastle University for sending me these fabulous documents: an article in The Times edition from 1977 announcing Tommy Flower’s receiving the DSc from Newcastle University and the Public Orator’s speech from the Honorary Degree Ceremony. I’ve typed out the full text of The Times article below. 

Brian has also sent me a link to The Secret War episode mentioned in the Times which he has found on Youtube. It is amazing 1977 TV, watch it now, you will not be disappointed.


The Times, Saturday, May 14, 1977, pg. 16; Issue 60003; col C

Computer pioneer: Mr Thomas Flowers

Category: News

Computer pioneer: Mr Thomas Flowers one of the men responsible for developing Colossus, the computer that contributed to breaking German codes during the Second World War, at Newcastle University yesterday, where he received an honorary degree of DSc.

Mr Flowers was head of the switching group of the Post Office’s Dollis Hill research station, London, and is known for his work on the application of electronics to telephone switching and signaling.

His wartime work on Colossus, which was developed for the Foreign Office’s department of communication, was described in the television series, The Secret War.


One comment

  1. I sent Brian Randell a link to my blog post above and he sent me this fabulous email:Hi Sue:I’m a lurking, rather than an active, member of Facebook and Twitter. So here’s a brief comment for you to use in your blog if you wish."I first learned (a very little) about Colossus in 1972 from the late Donald Michie, and with his permission published this in a paper ‘On Alan Turing and the Origins of Digital Computers’, (Machine Intelligence, vol. 7, pp. 3-20, Edinburgh University Press, 1972). At this time I sought unsuccessfully to have the Colossus Project declassified, but did receive an assurance that a detailed classified report on the Colossus would be prepared, while there were still people available at GCHQ with the necessary knowledge. (The result was the Don Horwood report that Tony Sale was later able to make use of when he started work on the Replica Colossus.) In 1975, in response to a further enquiry, I was told that a set of photographs and some brief details of the Colossus could now be released, and was authorised to interview Tommy Flowers and others, and to produce the paper on Colossus that I gave at the 1976 Los Alamos conference on the history of computing. The Newcastle Technical Report version of my paper was published in 1976 (, and a summary in the New Scientist in 1977, though the conference proceedings themselves did not appear until 1980. ‘Doc’ Coombs, who took over the Colossus Project from Tommy Flowers, accompanied me to the conference, and he and Colossus were the sensations of the conference, especially at a hurriedly-scheduled packed additional evening session. Some time in 1976, I believe, I became aware that the BBC were planning the ‘Secret War’ series, and that the last episode (‘Still Secret’) was going to be about Enigma. I met with the producer, Dominic Flessati, and told him – very guardedly – about the Colossus and the availability of photographs. This led to the re-jigging of the last episode, so as to cover both Enigma and Colossus. I was invited to dinner by Flessati after the series had been broadcast in 1977. On this occasion he introduced me to Sue Bennett, his researcher for ‘Still Secret’, in the following terms ‘Miss Bennett, I’d like you to meet Professor Randell, the ‘Deep Throat’ of the Secret War Series.’ I’m rarely left speechless, but this was one of the occasions!PS Helping to get Tommy Flowers an Honorary D.Sc. is, in my opinion, the best thing I’ve done in my entire career!"CheersBrian

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