Dora Metcalf

Dora Metcalf, 1935, in fedora and fur coat
Dora Metcalf, 1935.

Dora Metcalf (née Greene, 1892-1982) born in Madras (now Chennai), India. Her father, George Percy Greene, was Superintendent of the Madras Survey, a senior position in the Indian colonial administration. GPG died when Dora was 8 and the family returned to England. She was educated at Bedford High School and took an external degree with London University, gaining her BA in Mathematics when she was 19. After her fiancé, Hugh Cass, was killed at Gallipoli she found herself to be one of two million ‘surplus women’ with little prospect of finding a husband. Her response was to start a career in computing in 1916, selling Comptometers in Belfast and in revolutionary Ireland.

Dora founded her own business, Calculating And Statistical Services, in 1924, winning the contract to analyse the Northern Irish census of 1926. She created an international market for information services using Comptometers and tabulators, her biggest client being the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake. In 1934 she joined British Tabulating Machines (BTM) and founded the Service Bureaux Division, while continuing to run her flourishing Irish business. She married Naval officer John Metcalf in 1935. During the Second World War BTM supplied the bombe machines to the Bletchley Park codebreakers. Dora managed the contract but was struck down with ill health and had to drop this work at the end of 1942. Post-war she introduced the first electronic computer into Ireland before retiring in 1962.

She loved fishing for salmon and trout. She and John moved from London to Swordland Lodge on Loch Morar, where they lived until 1970. They lived the rest of their days in Otley, Yorkshire. She was the author’s great aunt.

Dora Metcalf with a catch of trout
Dora with her catch of trout, from The Tabulator, 1950s

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