Judith Bailey, 1934-2008

July 24, 2008

Judith Bailey, the former deputy director of the University of Cambridge's computing laboratory who was instrumental in helping academics apply computer technology to their research in the 1970s and 1980s, has died aged 73.

After attending Wimbledon High School for Girls, Ms Bailey went to St Hugh's College, Oxford. In 1956, she graduated in mathematics and physics. Having also gained a diploma in education, she went on to teach at Northampton Girls' School.

In 1960, she left teaching to take a one-year diploma in numerical analysis and automatic computing at Cambridge. In 1968, she was appointed technical officer in the Mathematical Laboratory, which provided computing facilities to the whole university. It was not long afterwards that she took on the role of superintendent of computing services.

In 1970, the laboratory was reorganised and the university computing service was set up under the directorship of David Hartley. "Judy's first reaction was to offer to resign, stating that there would now be nothing for her to do," Dr Hartley explained. "She was persuaded not to, and thus began a singular career in the administration of university computing." She became deputy director and remained in post until her retirement in 1988.

In the 1970s, a single large mainframe computer had to be shared by all users, from professors to undergraduates. At the start of the decade, the number of users was about 1,000. By the early 1980s, it was more than 8,000.

"The task of sharing the resources of a single computer among so many users in a fair and effective way required some clever administrative mechanisms," Dr Hartley said. "Jude had the extraordinary ability to know and understand the work of every single user, and to make wise decisions on allocating resources whenever the demand arose." In her 20 years, he said, not a single user complained of being unfairly treated.

When Ms Bailey took retirement in 1988, she turned to what was arguably her first love in life - music.

She studied for an A level in music and went on to take a degree at Anglia Ruskin University and became an active member of the Cambridge Musical Society.

Anthony Rowland-Jones, a former vice-principal of the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology and president of the Cambridge branch of the Society of Recorder Players, recalled in a letter to The Times in June that Ms Bailey not only played the recorder, but also sang and played the harpsichord.

"Her presence at concerts in Cambridge was so regular that only a few days ago we found ourselves looking for her at a concert ... forgetting she was no longer with us," he wrote.

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