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Celebrating the life of Dr Brian James Wilson (1934 – 2017)

Posted on 15/02/2017

Dr Brian James Wilson (10 June, 1934 - 4 February, 2017)

It is with sadness that we report the death of Brian Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics, who retired in 1999. He moved to Royal Holloway, from Chelsea College, during the reorganisation of the University of London in 1985, to work with the Finite Geometers who had been at Westfield.

Born in Gillingham, Kent, Brian retained a lifelong interest in the exploits of its Football Club. He was educated at Harrow County School for Boys and was a keen Old Gaytonian, its OB Association, playing for and then refereeing the Club's rugby team, until both hips hampered his mobility. Before he retired from Royal Holloway in 1999, both hips had been replaced but they did give him his distinctive way of walking.

Returning from National Service in the Signals, Brian graduated from Chelsea College of Technology with a Class I University of London degree in 1958, taking his MSc there in 1960. He worked for two years at Ealing Technical College and School of Art, where he met his wife Ann, before returning the Chelsea as an Assistant Lecturer in 1962. Whilst lecturing at Chelsea, he studied for his PhD and, by the time he submitted in 1970, Chelsea College of Science and Technology had been admitted to the University of London; the following year, Chelsea College received its Royal Charter.

Brian was active within the Combinatorics group at Royal Holloway, and regularly attended the Royal Holloway/Reading Combinatorics seminars, both before and after his move to Royal Holloway.

But Brian was always happy to give of his time to help others; together with his wife Ann, he shared a keen involvement with the Scout and Guide movements. But what combined his love of mathematics and working with and for the good of young people was his work with the UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematical Trust) set up in 1996. At the time of his death, Brian, who was a founder member of the BMOS (British Mathematics Olympiad Subcommittee), a subcommittee of the UKMT, was still serving on that Committee, regularly going off to mark the "Kangaroos". For seven years, I shared with Brian the responsibility for the interface between the first and second rounds of the BMO, which whittled some 800 odd schoolchildren down to the 100 invited to sit BMO2, the second level examination. Our colleagues used to comment on Brian's office littered with boxes of scripts, for the "marking weekend" at Parkside, a country house on the edge of Windsor Great Park; somehow, we always managed to restore order from the chaos but the task was made easier by Brian's keen sense of humour.

Brian was an active member of the Camera and Model Railway Societies in Wokingham; he enjoyed a profound love of classical music, particularly opera - and ornithology. He could also be found behind his daughter's stall at Ascot Farmers' Market. His boyish enthusiasm for his interests was infectious, as was his smile. But Brian will be remembered as a very compassionate and valued colleague.

Funeral Service: Wednesday, 1 March at 12.45 at Easthampstead Crematorium.

Christine Farmer




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