TRIBUTES have been paid to a computer science pioneer who has died aged 95.

Professor Tony Brooker was the founding professor of computer science at Essex University.

His work helped to establish the university’s reputation for research in artificial intelligence and robotics.

Prof Brooker was born in London and studied mathematics at Imperial College, where he first became involved in computers.

In 1949, he moved to Cambridge University, where he developed what is now known as computer software.

During his spell there he came to the attention of code-breaker Alan Turing.

In 1951, Turing persuaded Prof Brooker to move to Manchester and join the Computing Machine Laboratory at Manchester University.

Prof Brooker would go on to take over from Turing and spent the next decade working on the evolution of programming languages.

He wrote the world’s first compiler-complier - a programming tool - in the early 1960s.


In 1967, he moved to Essex as founding professor of the Computing Centre where, with the late Professor Keith Bowden, he began one of the first undergraduate schemes in computer science.

By the early 1970s the department was world renowned for its work on theory, numerical optimisation and artificial intelligence.

Vice-chancellor Prof Anthony Forster said: “Prof Brooker helped to transform our world.

“He pushed back the boundaries of computer science research and at Essex made an invaluable contribution to the lives of so many students.

“By establishing the first courses of their kind he helped nurture a generation of computer scientists who went on to be at the forefront of the technological revolution we’ve seen over the past 50 years.”

After serving as faculty Dean and as a pro vice-chancellor, he retired in 1988.

Head of the school of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, Prof Anthony Vickers added: “After retirement he continued to support the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering by attending our Capstone Project Opens Days when he could. His memory lives on with us as the Brooker Laboratory is used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by our students.”

As a young man, Prof Brooker was a keen rower, mountain climber and fell walker.

He also enjoyed sailing and travel.

Prof Brooker spent the last 25 years of his life caring for his wife, Vera, who was suffering from the after-effects of a stroke.

They were married for 60 years, and between them they raised three sons and also leave behind seven grandchildren.

He died peacefully in his sleep on November 20 at his home in Hexham, Northumberland.