John Makepeace Bennet AO
John Makepeace Bennett AO was an internationally recognised Australian computing pioneer and numerical analyst. Starting at the University of Sydney in 1956, in 1961, he became Australia's first Professor of Computing with the eventual title of Professor of Computer Science and Head of the Basser Department of Computer Science, a position he held until his formal retirement in 1986. In 1947, he had been Sir Maurice Wilke's (who predeceased him by just two weeks) first PhD student. At Cambridge he was responsible for the design, construction and testing of part of the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), one of the world's first computers. He then carried out the first structural engineering calculations by computer as part of his PhD. In Cambridge he also pioneered the use of digital computers for X-ray crystallography in collaboration with John Kendrew (later a Nobel prize winner). From Cambridge he moved in 1950 to Ferranti in Manchester to work on the Mark I*, where he also worked with one of the founders of modern computing, Alan Turing.
From the time he arrived at Basser, with which his name became synonymous, John's enduring vision was to educate students, industry and government in the powers of computers – using whatever computers were available and with the help of the many distinguished visitors he brought to Australia. In particular, he expounded considerable energy in demonstrating the use of computers for business and running courses for their staff. He established the Australian Computing Society and was its first President. He co-edited the history, Computing in Australia (1994). John's AO in 1983 was for his visionary contributions towards the development of computing in Australia.
Until his death, John remained on top of the latest developments such as quantum computing. For many years he continued to attend conferences and seminars asking his trademark penetrating questions. He was always an educator and visionary and an inspiration to all who came into contact with him.