Cambridge has been an internationally respected centre of learning since the 13th century. In the 20th century Cambridge was the origin of fundamental advances in nuclear physics, molecular biology and computer science. Over three hundred companies and commercial laboratories specialising in computing and advanced technology are concentrated in the area.
The Computer Laboratory was founded in 1937, as the Mathematical Laboratory, for work on mechanical calculators and analogue computers. It became involved in digital computing after 1945 under the direction of Professor Sir Maurice Wilkes FRS. Some of the Cambridge developments of that period belong in the basic stock of computing knowledge, for example the ideas of subroutines and of microprogramming.
In those early days the study of computing as an academic subject and the provision of computing facilities to the University as a whole were intimately bound together. The research undertaken involved either the production of workable computer systems, both hardware and software, or the development of new computer application techniques. Original pioneering work in building complete computers (the EDSAC was commissioned in 1949 and the EDSAC 2 in 1958) gave way to the early development of programming languages and operating systems. The latter included the first British time-sharing operating system on the Titan computer.
The Computer Laboratory continues to be at the forefront of Computer Science research. The grade point average for the Computer Laboratory’s submission to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise was the highest of all submissions to Computer Science and Informatics. Moreover, along with the Department of Engineering and the Department of Material Science & Metallurgy, it attained the highest grade point average among departments in Cambridge.
Current research areas include artificial intelligence; computer architecture; digital technology; graphics and human-computer interaction; natural language and information processing; programming, logic, and semantics; computer and communications security; systems.
The Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science, which ran from 1953 to 2008, was the world’s first taught course in computing; undergraduate teaching was introduced in 1970. A specialist MPhil in Speech and Language Processing (later MPhil in Computer Speech, Text and Internet Technology) ran from 1986 to 2010, taught jointly with the Engineering Department. An MPhil in Advanced Computer Science was introduced in 2009. At present there are about 200 undergraduate students and 50 MPhil students. A further 154 postgraduates are engaged in research for the PhD degree.
The Laboratory received an Excellent rating in the most recent Teaching Quality Assessment.
The Head of Department is Professor Andy Hopper FRS.
The Computer Laboratory’s web pages are at http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/