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John Derrick

John Derrick, BA

Mr John Derrick, former Lecturer in the Department of Pure Mathematics, died on 8th December 2011.

John Derrick was born in Paris in 1935, left for England at the outbreak of war with his family on “the last boat out of Biarritz”, and later attended Caterham School Surrey as a boarder.  He read Mathematics at University College London, where he met Margaret, his wife-to-be. After graduating in 1956 they both completed teacher-training at the London University Institute of Education. John taught at Ottershaw School near Chertsey where, despite his relative lack of experience, he was given responsibility for the whole of mathematics teaching in the Sixth Form. At the same time he was further developing his interests in the foundations of mathematics.

At the beginning of 1963, John took up appointment as Lecturer in Pure Mathematics at Leeds.  He settled quickly and successfully and was a lively member of the growing group of mathematical logicians led by M H Löb. His interest in Set Theory led him into fruitful collaboration with his contemporary Frank Drake and, more broadly, with colleagues in the Department of Philosophy. From the outset of his career at Leeds, he took a keen interest in the potential offered by television as a teaching aid; he was the first member of staff within the University to give a demonstration-lecture recorded in the University Television Studio.  Reflecting his enthusiasm, he was a member of the Committee on the Audio-Visual Service, and served on committees responsible for teaching methods and external relations. He also did work with the Open University. Later, his interests focused on computer-assisted proof, and he became Deputy Director of the Leeds Centre for Theoretical Computer Science in 1992, holding this office until 1998.

Widely known, and involved in a range of extra-mural activities, John Derrick served as a committee-member of the Yorkshire Branch of the Mathematical Association for a number of years and as President in 1968-69.  He regularly gave talks to school mathematical societies and secondary school teachers.  He travelled extensively to logic conferences and made many friends, revelling especially in “adventures” to Eastern Europe during the 1960s and 70s. Between October 1970 and March 1972 he was granted leave-of-absence to take up a post as Associate Professor in the Faculty of Science at the University of Orléans. 

Following some years of ill-health, John took early retirement in July 1998, staying on as a Senior Fellow until 2000. Since then, despite ongoing health issues, he maintained his many friendships and wide-ranging interests (choral singing with Margaret, bird-watching) with unfailing enthusiasm, and he remained a regular participant in Logic seminars until only a few weeks ago (on occasions taking leave from his hospital bed in order to attend). He will be sorely missed by the Logic community and the students for whom he always cared deeply.

John Derrick is survived by his wife Margaret, daughter Cathy, son John, and grandchildren.

The funeral took place at Thorner Parish Church on 16th December.