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David Wheeler (British computer scientist)

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Title: David Wheeler (British computer scientist)  
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Subject: Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Early computers articles by quality log, British information theorists, Members of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Fellows of Darwin College, Cambridge, Modern cryptographers
Collection: 1927 Births, 2004 Deaths, Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge, British Computer Scientists, British Information Theorists, Fellows of Darwin College, Cambridge, Fellows of the Association for Computing MacHinery, Fellows of the British Computer Society, Fellows of the Royal Society, Members of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, Modern Cryptographers, People from Birmingham, West Midlands
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David Wheeler (British computer scientist)

David John Wheeler
Born (1927-02-09)9 February 1927[1]
Birmingham, England
Died 13 December 2004(2004-12-13) (aged 77)
Nationality British
Fields Computer Science
Institutions University of Cambridge
Computer Lab, Cambridge
Darwin College, Cambridge
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Thesis Automatic Computing With EDSAC (1951)
Doctoral advisor Maurice Wilkes[2]
Doctoral students Michael Burrows
Andy Hopper
Mathai Joseph
Roger Needham
Bjarne Stroustrup
Kwok-Yan Lam
Known for Burrows–Wheeler transform[3]
Tiny Encryption Algorithm (TEA)[4]
Wheeler Jump[5]
WAKE (cipher)
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society (1981)
Computer Pioneer Award (1985)

David John Wheeler FRS (9 February 1927 – 13 December 2004)[7][8][9] was a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge.[10][11][12][13]


  • Education 1
  • Career 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Wheeler was born in Birmingham and gained a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge to read the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos, graduating in 1948.[14] He completed the world's first PhD in computer science in 1951.[15]


Wheeler's contributions to the field included work on the EDSAC[16] and the Burrows–Wheeler transform. Along with Maurice Wilkes and Stanley Gill he is credited with the invention of the subroutine (which they referred to as the closed subroutine), and gave the first explanation of how to design software libraries;[5] as a result, the jump to subroutine instruction is often called Wheeler Jump. He was responsible for the implementation of the CAP computer, the first to be based on security capabilities. In cryptography, he was the designer of WAKE and the co-designer of the TEA and XTEA encryption algorithms together with Roger Needham.

Wheeler married Joyce Blackler in August 1957, who herself used EDSAC for her own mathematical investigations as a research student from 1955. He became a Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge in 1964 and formally retired in 1994, although he continued to be an active member of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory until his death. In 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. In 2003, he was named a Computer History Museum Fellow Award recipient "for his invention of the closed subroutine, and for his architectural contributions to ILLIAC, the Cambridge Ring, and computer testing."[17] The Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge annually holds the "Wheeler Lecture", a series of distinguished lectures named after him.[18]

Wheeler is often quoted as saying "All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection, except of course for the problem of too many indirections."[19] Another quotation attributed to him is "Compatibility means deliberately repeating other people's mistakes."


  1. ^  
  2. ^ David Wheeler at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Wheeler, D. J.; Needham, R. M. (1995). "TEA, a tiny encryption algorithm". Fast Software Encryption. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1008. p. 363.  
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ Wheeler, D. J. (1992). "The EDSAC programming systems". IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 14 (4): 34–30.  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Cambridge Computer Laboratory – Obituaries: David Wheeler, 1927–2004". Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  9. ^ "Professor David Wheeler - Obituaries, News - The Independent". London. 22 December 2004. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  10. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  11. ^ Wheeler, D. J. (1994). "A bulk data encryption algorithm". Fast Software Encryption. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 809. pp. 127–134.  
  12. ^ Hopper; Wheeler (1979). "Binary Routing Networks". IEEE Transactions on Computers (10): 699.  
  13. ^ Hopper, A.; Wheeler, D. (1979). "Maintenance of Ring Communication Systems". IEEE Transactions on Communications 27 (4): 760.  
  14. ^ David Wheeler's publications indexed by the DBLP Bibliography Server at the University of Trier
  15. ^ The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer by Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler, and Stanley Gill; (original 1951); reprinted with new introduction by Martin Campbell-Kelly; 198 pp.; illus; biblio; bios; index; ISBN 0-262-23118-2
  16. ^ Wilkes, M.V.; Renwick, W.; Wheeler, D.J. (1958). "The design of the control unit of an electronic digital computer". Proceedings of the IEE - Part B: Radio and Electronic Engineering 04.  
  17. ^ CHM. "David Wheeler — CHM Fellow Award Winner". Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Computer Laboratory:Wheeler Lectures". Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Diomidis Spinellis. Another level of indirection. In Andy Oram; Wilson, Greg; Andrew Oram (2007). Beautiful code. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.  

External links

  • Oral history interview with David Wheeler, 14 May 1987. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Wheeler was a research student at the University Mathematical Laboratory at Cambridge from 1948–51, and a pioneer programmer on the EDSAC project. Wheeler discusses projects that were run on EDSAC, user-oriented programming methods, and the influence of EDSAC on the ILLIAC, the ORDVAC, and the IBM 701. Wheeler also notes visits by Douglas Hartree, Nelson Blackman (of ONR), Peter Naur, Aad van Wijngarden, Arthur van der Poel, Friedrich Bauer, and Louis Couffignal.
  • Oral history interview with Gene H. Golub. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Golub discusses the construction of the ILLIAC computer, the work of Ralph Meager and David Wheeler on the ILLIAC design, British computer science, programming, and the early users of the ILLIAC at the University of Illinois.
  • In 2003, he was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for his invention of the closed subroutine, his architectural contributions to the ILLIAC, the Cambridge Ring, and computer testing."

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