Jack Cole Building

Early Life and Education

Alfred Jack Cole was a Computer Scientist and Mathematician born in 1925. He is credited as one of the main drivers behind the establishment of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews. Cole studied Mathematics at University College London, graduating with first class honours, where he also completed a PhD in number theory. His involvement in computers began during a summer vacation consultancy at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The computer used at the facility at the time was an ACE (Automatic Computing Engine), where Alan Turing was an active member of the design team behind the development of the ACE.

Career at St Andrews

In 1965, Dr. Cole was appointed to a senior lectureship as Director of the Computing Laboratory in the University of St Andrews. At the time, the computing service staff totalled only 3 members. Dr. Cole himself, an operator and a computer/punch operator. The beginning of Dr. Cole’s tenure at St Andrews was not without problems. One that he encountered during his first week was when the operator reported that all disks were full. This was a surprise, as he knew this couldn’t be true.  At the time, there was no software available to correct this, so Dr. Cole spent a day and a night making manual corrections to fix the issue, as well as spending a week writing system check programs to ensure this problem wouldn’t arise again in the future. Another issue he had to deal with involved somebody advising Principal Sir Malcolm Knox that the current computing equipment available at the university would be sufficient for the next eight years.  This meant that the university would not invest any money in improving the computing infrastructure.. Thankfully, this matter was dealt with after an appointment with the Dean of Science, the principal as well as several members of the UGC. By 1970, the computing staff at the university had expanded to a total of 16, along with the replacement of the IBM 1620 machine by the IBM 360/44. This new machine allowed Fortran programs to run 60 times faster compared to the IBM 1620, demonstrating the scale of improvement on computing equipment.


Dr. Cole’s impact on the University of St Andrews was profound, and it is hard to imagine whether or not the university would even have a Computer Science department without his hard work dedication. His services were honoured by the naming the Computer Science building after him when it opened in 2005. He was extremely dedicated to sharing the benefits of computer technology with all, where he pioneered the teaching of Information Technology to Arts students.