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.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam