After winning a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of 16, Jim Wilkinson was awarded the Pemberton Prize for the most outstanding freshman and the Mathison Prize as the most outstanding third-year student. Like many others who came to join NPL's budding computer work, Wilkinson originally worked at the Ministry of Supply, until 1946.
Wilkinson was appointed to the Maths Division in 1946 as both Turing's assistant and as a numerical analysis researcher. Under Turing, Jim worked on the logical design of the ACE and after Turing left for Cambridge in 1947, he was appointed to lead the ACE group, which was successful in developing the pilot version of the machine - one of the first computers ever to be built.
Wilkinson was then seconded to the Electronics Division for work on the Pilot ACE, which he used to carry out matrix computations, also known as numerical linear algebra. In 1958, he was invited to give short courses at the University of Michigan Summer College of Engineering
He became a world leader in numerical analysis, winning many awards and fellowships, publishing successful books and generally being recognised as the authority on matrix computation.
Every four years, in honour of his outstanding contributions to the field of numerical software, NPL, Argonne National Laboratory and the Numerical Algorithms Group award a prize of $3000 to the entry that best addresses all phases of the preparation of numerical software.