Peter Michael Neumann OBE (28th December 1940 – 18th December 2020)
MA President 2015-16
It is with great sadness that The Mathematical Association learned of the death of Peter Neumann. Peter followed in the footsteps of his parents, the eminent mathematicians Bernhard and Hanna Neumann. He gained his BA in 1963 from The Queen’s College, Oxford and his DPhil from Oxford University in 1966. Peter’s research was in the field of group theory. He was a Tutorial Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford, and lecturer in the Mathematical Institute in Oxford until his retirement in 2008.
Peter is known for solving Alhazen’s problem in 1997, one of the last remaining problems of classical Greek geometry. But he also had a long-standing interest in the development of mathematical ideas and, upon retirement, undertook research on Évariste Galois, publishing a book on the work of the French mathematician, The mathematical writings of Évariste Galois, in 2011.
Peter was the recipient of several awards and prizes amongst them his OBE for services to mathematics education, awarded in the New Year’s Honours list of 2008. He was an inspirational teacher and research supervisor at Oxford University, respected and loved by his students, always taking time to listen and to share ideas. But his service to education extended to those students of mathematics of the future. Peter was the first Chairman of UKMT, serving from 1996 to 2005. During this period, Peter led UKMT in taking on the staging of the 2002 International Mathematical Olympiad, the UK stepping in at short notice to take over from The Philippines. It was his ambition the entry across the UKMT’s three nationwide challenges would top one million. Though this has not been achieved so far the current entry of almost 800,000 would have given him quiet pleasure.
Stories abound of Peter’s abilities as a chair of meetings and as a contributor to them. He would allow the free expression of opinion and then bring together the weight of the meeting and set the direction of travel. As President of the MA he exercised his skills quietly and effectively on Council. His contributions, laden with good sense, were given quietly but directly and would help to move the meeting and the MA forward.
A genial and generous man, an excellent host, first rate mathematician and educator, he will be sorely missed by all those who knew him, worked with him and enjoyed the pleasure of his company to the full.
Tom Roper Chair of MA Council