Emeritus Professor Frank Hirst has passed away peacefully in Adelaide after a brief illness, aged 98.

Vale Frank Hirst (1919-2017)

Hirst convened the first meeting of the Victorian Computer Society on 15 February 1961, and was part of the original executive committee, in his role as Honorary Secretary. The Victorian Computer Society eventually evolved to form the Victorian Branch of the Australian Computer Society on 1 January, 1966.

In 1954, Hirst, who was then a senior lecturer in Physics at the University of Melbourne, was given the task of transporting Australia’s first computer, CSIRAC (formerly known as Mark 1), from Sydney to Melbourne.

To house the computer, Hirst created the University of Melbourne Computation Laboratory, where he oversaw operation of the computer, and was responsible for the development of teaching and research activities in computer science.

By 1956, the University of Melbourne was offering computer programming courses from the laboratory as part of a Bachelor of Science degree, and Hirst was appointed as the inaugural Head of Computation.

Frank Hirst (seated) at the controls of CSIRAC in 1956. Standing (L to R) Ron Bowles, Trevor Pearcey, Ernest Palfreyman. Source: The Age

He was responsible for the acquisition of the University of Melbourne’s second computer, an IBM7044/1401.

Hirst switched CSIRAC off for the last time in November 1964, and it was donated to the Museum of Victoria.

In 1972, he left the University of Melbourne, taking up the role of Foundation Chair in Computing at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until his retirement.

Away from his contributions to computing in Australia, Hirst also served as a navigator for the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II.

Hirst was made an ACS Fellow (FACS) of the South Australian branch in March 1983, and would later become an Honorary Life Member.

He is survived by his two children, Jonathan and Claudia.