Computer Laboratory

Wheeler Lectures

David Wheeler

The “Wheeler Lecture” is an annual series of distinguished lectures named after David Wheeler, one of the early pioneers of Computer Science. It usually takes place on a Wednesday in Lecture Theatre 1 of the William Gates Building.

David worked on the original EDSAC computer and wrote one of the first computer programs to be stored in a computer’s working memory. He pioneered the use of sub-routines and is particularly remembered for his work on data compression.

David Wheeler was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1981, one of the earliest computer scientists to be so honoured. In October 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.

David started his PhD in the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory (then the Mathematical Laboratory) in the late 1940s, graduating in 1951. He then spent time at the University of Illinois before returning to the UK. He continued to work in the Computer Laboratory right up until his death, a decade after he had officially retired.

For further information about the Wheeler seminar series contact David Greaves.

Talks@cam entry

The next Wheeler Lecture is due to be given on Wednesday 24th May 2017 by Prof. M. Angela Sasse.

2017 – M. Angela Sasse: Can we make people value IT security?

In many organisations today, IT security is a battleground: to manage the risks the organisation faces, security specialists devise policies and deploy security mechanisms that they expect staff and customers to comply with. But most of time, staff and customers don’t comply, and attempts to change that by “raising awareness” and “educating” them generally fail. The talk will use the examples of security warnings, access control, and sandboxing to explain the different perspectives and values that security specialists and ‘the rest of us’ apply to security. In conclusion, I will argue that a value-centred design approach is the only way to develop security solutions people want to use.

M. Angela Sasse is the Professor of Human-Centred Technology in the Department of Computer Science at University College London. She obtained an M.Sc. in Occupational Psychology from the University of Sheffield and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Birmingham. She joined UCL as a lecturer in 1990. Since the mid-90s, her research has focussed on establishing the human-centred perspective on security, privacy, identity and trust. She has pioneered research on how IT security affects individual and organisational productivity, working with a number of major UK companies, and government agencies in the UK, US and Germany. She is currently the Director of the UK Research Institute in Science of Cyber Security, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2015.


The programme for the day is as follows:

  • 15:45 Afternoon tea.
  • 16:15 Wheeler lecture.
  • 17:30 Drinks reception.

There is no charge to attend, but it would be helpful if you could register your interest using the registration form.

2016 – Andrew Herbert: A History of Virtualisation in Operating Systems.

The fifth annual Wheeler lecture was given at the Computer Laboratory on Wednesday 25th May, 2016. The speaker was Andrew Herbert who gave an overview of virtualisation techniques in operating systems. The lecture was preceded by a series of ‘minute madness’ talks on current research themes. Abstract and further details.

2015 – Butler Lampson: Hints and Principles for Computer System Design

The fourth Wheeler Lecture was given at the Computer Laboratory on Tuesday 26th May, 2015. The speaker was Butler Lampson, Technical Fellow at Microsoft, and Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Abstract and further details.

2014 – Jeannette M. Wing: Computational Thinking

The Computer Laboratory celebrated the 10th Anniversary of women@CL on Wednesday 14th May 2014, and the annual Wheeler Lecture was given on that day by Prof. Jeannette Wing. Abstract and further information.

2013 – Tony Hoare: Could Computers Understand Their Own Programs?

The Computer Laboratory celebrated its 75th anniversary on Wednesday 24th April, 2013. The annual Wheeler lecture was given that day by Sir Tony Hoare. Abstract and further information.

2012 – Bjarne Stroustrup: C++11 Style

The first Wheeler Lecture was held at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory on Wednesday 15 February 2012, at 16:00. The speaker was Bjarne Stroustrup who talked on C++11 Style. Abstract and further details.