Obituary: Professor Brian Helliwell

John Brian Helliwell, applied mathematician, born York 2 January 1924, Professor of Engineering Mathematics Bradford University 1968-85, married 1951 Joyce Hutchinson (three daughters), died Leeds 14 July 1992.

BRIAN HELLIWELL was a Yorkshireman and a distinguished applied mathematician.

After obtaining a first class honours degree in mathematics at Leeds University in 1945 he was, like many of his contemporaries, directed to undertake his war service in government and industrial scientific establishments. He spent time at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, and at the gas department of Metro Vickers, Manchester. He then returned to Leeds to study for a doctorate, on 'control theory'.

Helliwell then entered an academic career. After short stays at Birmingham and Manchester, he moved to what is now Strathclyde University and became a Reader in gas dynamics. He made his final career move in 1968 to Bradford University, to become its first professor of engineering mathematics.

After Helliwell's early work in control and then in astrophysics, in the mid-Fifties his research interests changed to gas dynamics, focusing on the flow of gases at transonic speeds. With aircraft being designed to fly at high subsonic and supersonic speeds, work in this field was most pressing. The mathematics involved was very complex and solutions at that time had to be found without the help of powerful computers. He made considerable contributions to this work, published in various journals.

In the early 1960s he turned his attention to the field of magneto- gas dynamics. His best contribution to scientific knowledge was his pioneering work in this area which dealt with the flow of a conductive gas in a magnetic field. He was particularly concerned with shock waves and combustion waves, but also did work on the effects of thermal radiation.

Brian Helliwell was well known and liked in the world of applied mathematicians and was a regular member at the annual meetings of the British Theoretical Mechanics Colloquium from its founding in the late 1950s. He was also an influential member of the Yorkshire Applied Maths Colloquium. For his contributions to mathematics he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and also a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

The chair of engineering mathematics at Bradford University, of which he was the first holder, was created because of the importance of mathematics in engineering. It was appreciated that mathematics should be an integral part of an engineer's training and that it should not be taught as an isolated subject. He and his staff collaborated closely with the various engineering departments to ensure that this was the case.

In later years Helliwell became more involved with the university administration, an area in which, because of his temperament and meticulous attention to detail, he was very able. He was Dean of the Board of Studies in Engineering, and from 1980 to 1983 a Pro Vice- Chancellor. During this period of office he was a considerable asset in helping the university with drastic reductions in its finances and staffing-levels.

In 1985, for health reasons, he took early retirement. He moved to his much-loved north Yorkshire, where he took great delight in his garden. If it is true that one can choose friends but not family, then his many friends and his wife Joyce chose very wisely, while his three daughters have been very fortunate. Brian Helliwell was a good man with a true sense of humility.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor