Obituary: Professor Bernard Scott

David Bernard Schultz (Scott), mathematician: born 27 August 1915; Lecturer in Mathematics, Queen Mary's College, London 1939-46; Lecturer in Mathematics, Aberdeen University 1947; Lecturer in Mathematics, King's College London 1947-53, Reader 1953- 62; Professor of Mathematics, Sussex University 1962-80 (Emeritus); married 1939 Barbara Noel Smith (four sons; marriage dissolved 1972); died Hove 7 November 1993.

BERNARD SCOTT was the founding Professor of Mathematics at Sussex University, from 1962 to 1980, and the Independent's first chess writer.

At the time of his birth in 1915, he had the surname Schultz, but he changed it in 1939. The Schultzs were a Jewish family of fur and skin merchants living in Golders Green, and Scott attended the City of London School from 1925 to 1934. Contemporary school magazines give examples of his early penchant for argument and debate, and also record his enthusiasm for sport, especially rugby. His talents for chess and mathematics are also apparent, and he won an Open Scholarship in mathematics to Magdalene College, Cambridge, from where he graduated with First Class Honours, and a Distinction in Part III of the Mathematical Tripos in 1937.

While at Cambridge he met Barbara Noel Smith, whom he married in 1939. They had four sons, but after the children had reached maturity the marriage broke up in 1972. In 1937-38 Bernard remained in Cambridge as a research student of WVD Hodge, and his work led to a Rayleigh Prize in 1939. After a brief spell as a schoolteacher, he became a Lecturer in Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London, just before war broke out.

During the war, as a chess player of some distinction and a pure mathematician of great talent, Scott found his way to Bletchley Park - coyly referred to as 'Room 17, the Foreign Office' in his own curriculum vitae. The success of that project is now widely understood, but so firmly had the ethos of secrecy been maintained that many of Scott's friends only became aware of this work when his wartime colleague Arnold Lynch spoke movingly of those times at his funeral.

After the war, when universities were again allowed to recruit staff, Scott moved to Aberdeen, but stayed less than a year before returning to London as Lecturer in Mathematics at King's College in 1947. His research in algebraic geometry led to the award of a Junior Berwick Prize from the London Mathematical Society in 1951 (his son Peter was also to win a Berwick Prize 35 years later), followed by promotion to Reader in 1953. The depth and elegance of Scott's work were internationally recognised. He expressed his views on mathematics teaching very forcefully; more senior members of the college appreciated his value as a lively and provocative colleague, but his undiplomatic manner was not to everybody's taste.

A big career change took him to be the founding Professor of Mathematics at the new Sussex University. He took up his appointment in 1962, but for almost a year before this he had to recruit students, appoint staff, design courses and conduct publicity for his new charge, while still employed by King's. The new department expanded more rapidly than he had thought possible, and the general glitter of Sussex in its 'Balliol-by-the-sea' era meant that obtaining students was also easier than expected. He did not confine his activities to his own subject; he was a frequent - and witty - contributor to debates in Senate, and his influence in those early years is still apparent.

With his King's colleague Rex Timms, he wrote Mathematical Analysis: an introduction (1966), both to influence the teaching at A level, and to be an undergraduate text. He founded the Sussex branch of the Mathematical Association, and kept long-standing contact with former students, especially those who became schoolteachers. Despite the heavy demands of teaching and administration in a new and expanding department, he continued to publish research. He believed that significant advances in mathematics occur because talented individuals wish to pursue their own ideas, and saw no value in the present fashion for seeking to separate teaching from research.

Outside his work, his interests included chess and opera. He visited Glyndebourne as often as possible, and had been Sussex Individual Chess Champion before becoming the Independent's chess correspondent in his retirement. During a chess game, he suffered his last heart attack, and died 10 days later. He had specified the precise conduct of his Quaker-style funeral, and asked that his family and friends gather afterwards to partake of Madeira and Madeira cake.

He was not an easy man. When he was roused, the sharpness of his remarks could wound, and despite his superb command of language, he would often express himself elliptically, for his audience to puzzle out later. But he was a loyal, warm-hearted and essentially kindly man who could, above all, never be dull.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on