Professor Graham Higman

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The Independent Online

In his obituary of Graham Higman [8 May], Michael Collins captured the otherworldliness of the mathematician beautifully, writes Don Manley.

As the convenor of the Methodist reading group that he mentions, I often tried to make a little light conversation before the other members arrived, and one day I asked Graham if he had been listening to The Archers. His reply floored me: "I don't have the necessary apparatus." He didn't have a television either, and the only national newspaper he read was The Observer – occasionally he would tackle the Azed crossword, seeing how far he could get without Chambers Dictionary.

He was an ardent Green, and one of his sons, Roger, has achieved national eminence in Friends of the Earth. Though he loved the Wesley hymns, Graham's Methodism was far from old-fashioned and he was at pains to try and weld his faith to an understanding of evolution. In an age when successive governments want science and mathematics to justify themselves in terms of the national economy, this lovable and grumpy old man seemed to stand for something else that mattered much more.