2018 Oration The 44th Annual Oration will take place on February 14, 2018. Scholar Jim Breen, the Chapter's Keeper of the Web, will present "Joseph Crabtree: the Father of the Computer". He has provided the following synopsis:
Historians of the computer trace its beginnings to Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine of the 1840s, and also to Ada, Countess Lovelace (Byron's only legitimate child), who worked with Babbage and is regarded by many as the first programmer. The narrative is bedevilled with mysteries and doubts, with some claiming that Ada could not have produced her work alone.
Jim, who first programmed a computer as a schoolboy in the early 1960s, and has spent his life working with them, has delved into the mysteries and has discovered in the public records hitherto overlooked facts which establish definitively the real progenitor of the computer who, for reasons which will become apparent, preferred to keep in the background. After this oration the history of the computer industry will never be the same.
On 17 February 1954 Professor James Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at UCL, delivered the oration entitled "Homage to Crabtree". The meeting was presided over by Professor Hugh Smith, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at UCL, and twenty-four scholars were present.
This was the inaugural meeting of the Foundation which ever since has been dedicated to researching and publicising the life and work of Joseph Crabtree (1754-1854). Crabtree's achievements had been grievously overlooked, misinterpreted, occasionally traduced and in some cases quite deliberately suppressed, leading to a situation amounting, in Professor Sutherland's words, "almost to a conspiracy of silence". The traduction continues to the present day, as can be seen by the deletion in late 2014 of the Wikipedia entry on Crabtree, which had been compiled by scholars in order to reveal his contributions to the wider community.
Since that inaugural meeting the Foundation has now expanded to over 400 members, or more correctly "Scholars", in the first President's words, "scattered as they are over the face of the world", who have established chapters in Australia, Italy and Southern Africa. Each chapter typically meets annually on the Wednesday closest to Saint Valentine's Day, the day of Crabtree's birth, for a dinner and an oration by a distinguished scholar on some hitherto undiscovered aspect of Crabtree's career and genius. Their findings have established the international scope and diversity of Crabtree's life and achievements.
The Australian Chapter was formed in Melbourne in 1975 at a dinner arranged by the late Professor Arthur Brown to honour Bryan Bennett, a fellow Orator of the Parent Foundation. Also believed to be at the dinner were Richard Belshaw, Keith Bennetts, Don Charlwood, Pat Kilbride and Gordon Taylor; all future Orators. Each year since then the Chapter has celebrated Crabtree's birth with a dinner and oration.
Initially the Chapter met at the Club at Monash University, and in 2010 moved its dinner and oration to the aptly-named Savage Club in the City.