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Garry Tee

After Garry Tee graduated from Auckland University College as M.Sc. (N.Z.), his first job was as a computer, with an oil prospecting team in northwest Australia. In 1958, human computers began to be supplemented by electronic computers in geophysics, and it was obvious to him that electronic computers were going to become extremely important. Accordingly, he went to England, where he became a mathematician in English Electric Company, which manufactured DEUCE computers (based on Alan Turing's design for ACE). From 1964 to 1968 he was a foundation member of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Lancaster, and then he returned to the Department of Mathematics at the University of Auckland.

He has worked mostly on numerical analysis, and on the history of science. He has looked around in New Zealand and Australia for historical scientific material, and has found much more than he expected. In particular, he has found very many relics of Charles Babbage and many letters from Charles Darwin, plus numerous manuscripts of other eminent scientists, and he has published accounts of those relics.

In his graduate course on the History of Computing, he explains the importance of COLOSSUS Mark 1, which was built in 1943 at Bletchley Park for cracking ciphers. It was kept totally secret until 1974, but it is now acknowledged as the first computer to work. A few years ago, he then introduced a friend of his now living in Auckland, who told the students how he built COLOSSUS. The previous year, he introduced another friend now living in Auckland, who told the students how she became the operator of COLOSSUS.

Anecdote about Apollo 14

In 1971, I was on the deck of an Auckland harbour ferry at 9am on a beautifully clear summer day (February 9, 1971), when I saw an old man stand up and raise his walking-stick to point north. About 2 degrees above the horizon, a blazing light was moving eastwards - Apollo 14 was entering the atmosphere about 1000km away, near the Kermadec Islands. I asked the old man what would have been his response if, 30 years previously, somebody had predicted that he would see a spaceship returning 3 men from a visit to the Moon. 'I would have called him a bloody lunatic!' was his honest reply.

Garry Tee, Department of Mathematics, University of Auckland, New Zealand