Ted Cooke-Yarborough 1918-2013

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Edmund (Ted) Cooke-Yarborough, who has died at the age of 94, was the lead designer of one of the world's early computers and a pioneer in radar, transistorisation and electronics.

Cooke-Yarborough, the only child of George Eustace, a JP, and Daphne, was born on Christmas Day 1918 at Campsall in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Cooke-Yarborough excelled at school and quickly showed his engineering capabilities. By the age of eleven he had built his first wireless receiver and at Canford School in Dorset he was a member of the Wireless Society that developed portable short-wave transmitter-receivers for two-way communication in the school grounds - the enterprising society sold two of them to the Yeovil fire brigade.

Cooke-Yarborough read Physics at Oxford (Christ Church College) and in his final year became President of the University Physics Society. Called up for war service, he received medical discharge, but in 1940 was invited to join the secret RDF project (radar) at Dundee and then at Swanage at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE). He led the research, development and production of a fully automatic airborne radar system to warn aircrews of enemy fighters approaching from the rear.

He continued his work in radar at Malvern and then on guided weapons in the USA. In the aftermath of the war he went with a Combined Intelligence mission to interrogate German scientists on their work on guided weapons and radar.

In 1946 Cooke-Yarborough joined UK Atomic Energy programme to work on nuclear instrumentation and soon after his transfer to Harwell in 1948 supervised the design, construction and commissioning of the Harwell Dekatron computer working with co-designers Dick Barnes and Gurney Thomas. In 1951, he attended the first Bell Labs symposium on "The Transistor" and went on to develop the CADET, one of the first digital computers to use transistors throughout.

in 1957 he was appointed Head of Harwell's Electronics Division, and published "An Introduction to Transistor Circuits". Over the next few years he was offered several prestigious posts which he declined, and received a succession of awards and recognition for his work.

In 1980, he was elected Fellow of the Fellowship of Engineering (now the Royal Academy of Engineering) and became Chief Research Scientist at Harwell until his retirement in 1982.

In retirement he worked as a consultant and presented papers around the world.

Ted was the consummate inventor and engineer both at Harwell and at home. He is remembered with great affection for a series of Heath-Robinson style machines at home and in particular his automatic, occasionally renegade, lawn-mowing machine. Ted’s late wife Anthea finally drew the line at the automatic bedroom window curtain opening machine!

Ted Cooke-Yarborough's last public appearance was at the reboot of the Harwell Dekatron computer at The National Museum of Computing on 20 November 2012. Then aged 93, Ted found speaking something of a challenge but was determined to play an active part in the event. With a twinkle in his eye, his sharp intellect and dry humour were obvious to everyone.

Ted was predeceased in 2007 by his wife of 55 years, Anthea Dixon. He is survived by his son Anthony and daughter Jane Vicat, and grandchildren George, Eliza and Chloe Cooke-Yarborough; Felix and Theo Vicat.

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