Obituary: Professor Philip Holgate

Philip Holgate, statistician; born Chesterfield 8 December 1934; schoolteacher, Burgess Hill School, Hampstead (later Borehamwood, Herts) 1956-61; Assistant Experimental Officer, Rothamsted 1961-62; Scientific Officer, the Nature Conservancy 1962-63, Senior Scientific Officer 1963-67, Lecturer, Birkbeck College, London 1967-69, Reader 1969-70, Professor of Statistics 1970-93; died London 13 April 1993.

PHILIP HOLGATE was a statistician with a long-standing interest in biology, and had been Professor of Statistics at Birkbeck College, London, since 1970.

Holgate was born at Chesterfield and graduated in Mathematics from what is now Exeter University in 1955. After five years as a schoolteacher, he joined the Statistics Section at Rothamsted Research Station, in Hertfordshire, and then moved to the Biometrics Section of the Nature Conservancy, where he began to publish in academic journals.

Holgate developed an interest in biology while working at the Nature Conservancy, and many of his papers have their roots in biology or ecology, relating to the interaction between biology and mathematics. They include stochastic models of animal and plant populations (including the relationship between the numbers of prey and their predators). He also contributed to the development of the properties of discrete distribution theory relating to animal populations, and substantially to the theory and applications of Genetic Algebras. He was delighted when Yuri Lyubich's splendid monograph on this specialised area was published in English last year, hoping that this would lead to further interaction between biology and mathematics.

Holgate also contributed to the theory of probability, and had a professional interest in the history of mathematics. He joined Birkbeck College as a Lecturer in 1967, and quickly achieved promotion to professor. At the time of his sudden death, from a heart attack, he had produced over 80 clearly written and scholarly contributions to the literature.

Holgate did not shirk what he saw as his responsibility to play a full part in the work of his college, and in the mathematical and statistical community outside. He edited Series B of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, was President of the British Region of the Biometric Society, Treasurer of the Joint Mathematical Council, and a valued member of various committees of all those bodies, and of the London Mathematical Society. At Birkbeck, as well as remaining Head of Department for over 20 years, he had two spells as Dean of Science, was a College Governor, and Vice-President of the local Association of University Teachers (AUT). The academic world relies on conscientious scholars to take on the underpaid job of external examiner: Holgate served 14 universities in this way, always constructively, and was motivated to see that fair judgements were made on students.

He was a clear and thoughtful lecturer, and successfully supervised 14 students to the degree of Ph D. Mathematical success is most commonly associated with youth, and full-time study: it requires someone of Holgate's qualities to take on late-developing and part-time research students, and guide them to a doctorate in probability or in theoretical statistics. His own delayed start to an academic career showed his students what could be achieved.

His reputation, especially in genetic algebras, led to frequent invitations to overseas conferences and colloquia. He took advantage of this travel, enjoyed walking round new cities, and was a keen photographer. Although his entire university career was spent in one institution, he will be mourned by friends around Britain, Europe and further afield. A quiet and private man, Philip was trusted and valued for his integrity, his willingness to shoulder responsibility, and his concern for his colleagues and their students.

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
and  

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