John Dee was Warden of Christ's College, Manchester, in 1595-1604, coming to reside in 1596 (or Feb 1596), returning to London c1604 after his wife's death from plague [Jones, pp.23-24]. Costel Harnasz tells me this was the college for training priests attached to the church, now Cathedral. The college was later called Manchester College and removed elsewhere (Oxford?). Harnasz says Dee's name is on the wall. I gather the building is now Chetham's School of Music and Dee's room is extant in the library, which was later used by Marx and Engels.

In the Manchester City Art Gallery is a painting of 'Sir Thomas Aston at the Deathbed of his Wife' which appears to be mid 17th Century, with Sir Thomas holding a device which appears to be a cross-staff or a similar instrument. There is also a celestial globe in the background. The instrument has an inscription on it, but I have only seen a photo in which I can only make out a few of the words.


In 1653, Humphrey Chetham founded Chetham's Library here. It is locally claimed to be the first free library in Europe, but cf Norwich and Reigate, below; and also Innerpeffray and Marsh's Library, Dublin. Another source says it was the only town library 'up to the mid-nineteenth century, that was entirely free and accessible to the public.' Yet another source says the first 'free public lending library' was opened in Manchester in 1853 - presumably a misprint for 1653.

John Dalton (1766 1844) came to Manchester to teach mathematics and natural philosophy at New College (an extinct Quaker college) (other sources call it: Manchester Academy or Manchester College or the Academy of Manchester) in 1793. In 1794, he was the first to describe colour blindness, from which he and his brother suffered, in a paper to the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. In about 1800, he resigned and made his living as a tutor, and Manchester College moved to York in 1803 (there is a current Manchester College at Oxford - is there any connection??). He discovered Dalton's Law, announcing it to a meeting of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society on 21 Oct 1803 [Jaffee, p.95], including the first table of atomic weights [Low, p.71]. He found his Law of Multiple Proportions c1807 and published it in his A New System of Chemical Philosophy of 1808. FRS, 1822. James Prescott Joule was a pupil of his when Joule was ten. There are numerous memorabilia of Joule, particularly in the Museum of Science and Industry. There are statues of Joule and Dalton in the porch of the Town Hall.


There is another statue of Dalton outside Manchester Metropolitan University. He is buried in Ardwick Cemetery [Low, pp.72 & 107].


The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society was founded in 1781 as the first such society outside London. It was (is?) at 36 George Street. Dalton was Secretary and President and used to teach arithmetic in the rooms (or at his lodgings nearby). [Jaffee, pp.95, 98, 341]. Joule was Librarian in 1844, Secretary in 1846 and President in 1860 [Low, p.108].
Joule was the first to measure electric current, introduced the notion of measuring resistance, stated that P = I2.R in 1840 and made several measurements of the mechanical equivalent of heat in 1843-1878, leading to the principle of conservation of energy. Royal and Copley Medals of the RS; Albert Medal of Royal Society of Arts. Joule later worked with Thomson/Kelvin and he presented some of his experimental equipment to Kelvin and this material is in the Kelvin Museum, Glasgow (qv).

William Sturgeon, the pioneer electrical engineer, removed to Manchester in 1840, studying mathematics with Dalton and teaching Joule. He is buried in Prestwich Churchyard. [Yarwood, p.35; Ackermann, pp.346-347]

The University of Manchester grew out of the previous Owens College, founded in 1851. Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester were chartered as a joint university in 1880 and then separately in 1904. The Faculty of Technology became a separate university as The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in 1956. Many of the details about these institutions come from [C. Field & Pickstone].

William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) was tutor at Owens College from c1861 to 1876, soon becoming Professor of Logic and Mental and Moral Philosophy and Professor of Political Economy. He developed his logic machine in 1869 - this was the first machine which could solve problems faster than by hand. [Gardner, p.91]

Rutherford was Professor of Physics in 1907 1919 and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. Hans Geiger (1882-1945) invented his counter here in 1907 (or 1908) - in 1928, at Kiel, Geiger and W. Müller improved this to the standard Geiger-Müller counter. Rutherford and Geiger determined the identity of alpha particles here in 1909. Rutherford, Geiger and Ernest Marsden discovered Rutherford scattering of alpha particles in 1909 and Rutherford devised his model of the atom while having Sunday dinner at home just before Christmas 1910, first announcing it at a dinner on 7 Mar 1911 and publishing an extract in the Journal of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester. (Niels Bohr was here at this time and discussions with Bohr were the essential background to this work.) In 1914, he stated that the hydrogen nucleus was the simplest positive charged particle and named it the 'proton'. There is a plaque on Oxford Road. Rutherford's desk is still radioactive.

Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley (1887 1915) was Lecturer in Physics from 1910 to 1913. He worked with Charles Galton Darwin on X-rays. He then used X-ray spectra to discover the concept of atomic number in 1912 or 1913 - this would undoubtedly have earned a Nobel Prize but he was killed at Gallipoli. Rutherford wrote Moseley's DNB entry which says a commemorative plaque was erected at Manchester. The scientific world was so appalled at the loss of Moseley that steps were taken to prevent further losses. [Larsen. Jaffee, p.226.]

N. Bohr (c1910-1913), Muller and Chadwick also worked here with Rutherford.

The University of Manchester has been a major centre for the development of computers since 1934 when Douglas R. Hartree (1897-1958), Professor of Applied Mathematics, built a working model of a differential analyser from Meccano parts here. In 1935 a full scale analyser was built.

Digital computing started in 1946 when M. H. A. Newman (appointed Professor in 1945) initiated a computing project after having served at Bletchley Park. Newman brought I. J. Good and D. Rees with him. Turing was here from autumn 1948. Turing lived at Hollymeade (now 43 Adlington Road), Dean Row, Wilmslow, 10 miles south of Manchester, from 1950. He committed suicide there in 1954. [Hodges, pp.426 & 487; personal visit.] On 12 Dec 1994, the fortieth anniversary of his death, a section of the inner ring road was named Alan Turing Way, with a commemorative plaque [David Ward, "Wartime 'genius' honoured at last", The Guardian (13 Dec 1994) 10].


Peter Hilton also came in 1948.

On 21 June 1948, the 'Baby' Manchester machine ran - the first electronic stored program machine to run. It was built by F.C. Williams (1911-1977), Professor of Electrical Engineering from Dec 1946. Williams came from the TRE, Malvern, and brought Tom Kilburn (1921-2001) with him. G. C. Tootill also came from TRE a little later. Williams and Kilburn had already thought about computers at TRE, realising the need for a storage device and had started investigating cathode ray tube storage. Williams and Kilburn made cathode ray tube (CRT) storage work in 1946-47. Williams stored 2048 bits on a CRT by the end of 1947. In December 1947, Kilburn published details of the storage system and an outline design for a computer. In fact, the Manchester machine was built by Williams, Kilburn and Tootill to demonstrate that CRT storage would work! The first program, by Kilburn, ran on 21 Jun 1948. Kilburn wrote up the work as his PhD thesis. [The Baby was rebuilt in 1997 for its 50th anniversary, in a project directed by Chris Burton of the Computer Conservation Society. Kilburn reran his original program on 21 Jun 1998, with Sebastian de Ferranti present. The machine is now in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. In fact, students have already reproduced the entire machine on a single chip!] In 1948, the Government contracted with Ferranti to build a machine "to Professor Williams' specification". The 'Baby' was improved and became generally usable in 1949, with the October 1949 version serving as the model for the Ferranti version. Ferranti delivered this first Mark I in February 1951 - the first delivered commercial computer. (The first UNIVAC was delivered in March.) There is a plaque in Bridgeford Street. In 1953, the first transistor based computer ran here. Later developments led to the Mercury computer and its Autocode. Kilburn became the first Professor of Computer Engineering from 1960 and head of the first UK Department of Computer Science in 1964; FRS, 1965; CBE, 1973; retired in 1981.

Lord Bowden was head of the Faculty of Technology when it became UMIST in 1956. He edited Faster Than Thought (1953), the first popular exposition of computers, and he called himself the world's first computer salesman, having been instrumental in the sale of the first copy of the Manchester Mark I to the St. Lawrence Seaway Project in 1950(?).
In 1951-1954, Kilburn's group develops a Mark II machine, called MEG, probably the first machine with floating-point arithmetic and later developed by Ferranti into the MERCURY of 1957. In 1953, they build the first transistorised computer, later developed by Metropolitan-Vickers into the MV950 of 1956. The ATLAS was developed here from 1956, with the first one being inaugurated here on 7 December 1962. It was the first machine with virtual memory, had the first real operating system and was (one of ?) the first to use magnetic disks. In 1972-1974, they develop MU5 which ICL develops into their 2900 series.

Osborne Reynolds (1842-1912), of Reynolds' Number, was the first Professor of Engineering at Owens College in 1868 1905. He lived and carried out many experiments in Ladybarn Lane, Fallowfield. His original apparatus for studying the transition to turbulence is still in use in the Department of Engineering. J.J. Thomson was a student of his here.

Horace Lamb (1849-1934) was a student at Owens College before going to Cambridge. He was Professor of Pure Mathematics at Owens College from 1885 and Professor of Mathematics (Pure and Applied) from 1887 to 1920. There is a 1913 portrait by his son Henry, a distinguished artist, in the Department of Mathematics.


Eddington and Chapman were his students here. Eddington got a first in physics in 1902 before going to Cambridge.

William Stanley Jevons was Cobden Professor of Political Economy at Owens College from c1866.

Arthur Schuster (1851-1934) was Professor of Applied Mathematics here from 1881 (elected in preference to J.J. Thomson). He was then Professor and head of Physics from 1888 and first Dean of Science from 1904. W.L. Bragg was here in 1915 when he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. He was a professor in 1919 1937.

P.M.S. Blackett (1897 1974) was Professor of Physics from 1938 to 1953. In 1942, Blackett and Lovell suggested how radar could be used in astronomy, leading to the building of Jodrell Bank. In 1948, Blackett received the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Littlewood was a lecturer in 1907-1910. Mordell was lecturer at the Manchester College of Technology in 1920-1922 and published his finite basis theorem while here. He was then Reader at the University of Manchester from 1922 and Fielden Professor of Pure Mathematics from 1923 until 1945.

Davenport was a student in 1924-1927, studying under Mordell and Milne, returning as a lecturer in 1937-1941. Besides Davenport, Mordell also recruited K. Mahler, P. Erdos (1934-1938) and B. Segre for the staff [Rogers] and Chabauty, Heilbronn, D. H. Lehmer, R. Rado, J.A. Todd, Ulam, P. Du Val and L.C. Young were here at various times.

Hartree was professor in 1929-1946. S. Chapman (1888-1970) and E.A. Milne (1896-1950) were successive Professors of Applied Mathematics.

Lighthill was Senior Lecturer from 1946 and Professor of Applied Mathematics in 1950-1959. Eddington, N. Mott, Poynting, Schuster, J.J. Thomson, C.T.R. Wilson, Wittgenstein were students. Remarkably, Wittgenstein was a student of Engineering. J. J. Thomson was born in Manchester. John Arthur Todd (1908 1994) was Assistant Lecturer in 1931-1937, with a year out at Princeton [Atiyah].

Einstein received an honorary doctorate and lectured at the University on his first visit to Britain in Jun 1921. He signed the blackboard and someone removed the signature and framed it. It hung in the physics lab until 1960 and then was stored in a cellar when the lab was redecorated. In 1967, Douglas Broadbent retrieved it before the cellar was cleared by a scrap merchant. It hung in his house until he returned it to the University on 20 Dec 1994. [David Ward, "Manchester gets Einstein relic from the great man's own hand", The Guardian (20 Dec 1994) 8; Anon, "Einstein memento handed back", The Guardian (27 Dec 1994) 8]

In 1908-1911, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) lived in Manchester. (I don't know if he was a student at that time.)

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is based in five old railway buildings, including the world's first passenger station and first railway warehouse (both 1830), in the Castlefields section of Manchester. It has recently been expanding and is now one of the world's major science museums. The rebuilt 'Baby' is now there.

The 1831 Middle Warehouse on the Bridgewater Canal, in Castlefield, has an elliptical arch over the holes for barges.

See also: Salford and Hoole.

To see an Ordnance Survey map click at THIS LINK

Gazetteer Index Main MacTutor index

An extract from The Mathematical Gazetteer of the British Isles created by David Singmaster

The original site is at THIS LINK