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Beatrice (Trixie) Worsley

One of the very early employees of the Computation Centre at the University of Toronto was Beatrice H. Worsley, known to everyone as "Trixie". Although I knew who she was when I was a graduate student, it wasn't until much later that I became acquainted with her through the Canadian Information Processing Society. Since most persons working in computing now, even those in Canada, will not have heard of her, I would like to make a few remarks about her life and work. Some of the following material has been provided by the Alumni Association of Queen's University.

Beatrice Helen Worsley was born in Mexico on October 18, 1922. She attended Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, and then the University of Toronto graduating in 1944 with first class honours in Mathematics and Physics. During the war she worked with the Royal Canadian Navy on the design of torpedoes equipped with rudimentary computers. In 1946 and 1947 she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received an S.M. in Mathematics in 1947.

In September 1947 Trixie was one of the two junior assistants - J. Perham Stanley was the other - hired by the newly formed University of Toronto Computation Centre at a salary of $200 per month. They were both sent on a training course with IBM so that they could use the equipment at the IBM Service Bureau until that at the Computation Centre was installed the following year. During this period she worked on the Meccano Differential Analyzer discussed in the last section.

Early in 1949 both she and Perham Stanley were sent to Cambridge University to gain experience on the EDSAC which was then nearing completion. The EDSAC was first demonstrated in May of that year and an account of the first demonstration including flow diagrams, programs and output - a table of primes from 5 to 1021 (excluding for some unknown reason 2 and 3!) and a table of squares and first differences of the integers from 1 to 32 - may be found in (Worsley, 1949). When the Ferut was installed, she was one of the persons who wrote Transcode, a programming system which allowed programmers to write programs in a simplified language that was then compiled into Ferut's quite arcane machine language (Hume and Worsley, 1955). Trixie continued her studies at Cambridge and received a Ph.D. in 1952. She was possibly the first woman to obtain a doctorate in the field of computers. She continued at the University of Toronto for some years eventually becoming an Associate Professor.

In 1965 Trixie went to Queen's University as a founding member of the Queen's Computing Centre and developed some of the early courses given by the Centre. In 1969 when the Department of Computing and Information Science was established she received a joint appointment as an Associate Professor with the Department and worked on curriculum development for both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

In the academic year of 1971/72 she took a sabbatical leave with the Department of Applied Analysis and Computer Science at the University of Waterloo to work on assembler language design as related to logical structure of computers. On May 8, 1972 she died of a heart attack in her 52nd year.

Trixie Worsley published about 17 papers in professional journals and a large number of articles in the Quarterly Bulletin of the Computing and Data Processing Society of Canada. She was active in both this association and the Computer Science Association and helped in the merger of the two organizations. The year before her death she donated a large number of her papers to the Smithsonian Institution.


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