Professor Peter Dew CEng, MBCS, PhD, BTech
Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 26 April 2018, of Professor Peter Dew, former Professor of Computer Science in the School of Computing.
After obtaining his PhD in mathematics at Bradford, Peter was appointed as a Lecturer in the School of Computing in 1973. He quickly became indispensable to the department and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1986 and Professor of Computer Science in 1988.
From the first, Peter was one of the architects of the growth in computer studies at Leeds. His extremely fertile mind was able to see the potential applications of technology and to extrapolate from one premise to another with great success; and his intellectual agility and enthusiasm produced a flood of ideas, which, even more importantly, he was able to translate into action through a combination of charm, sheer hard work and formidable skill in negotiation. Peter’s research interests included high-performance computing and multimedia networks, virtual working environments, e-science and collaborative computing. Over the course of his long career, he was also very active in developing parallel and scalable architectures and algorithms, including applications for computationally intensive spatial decision support systems; and work on algorithms and software for the solution of partial differential equations leading to the SPRINT software. Throughout his research, he worked enthusiastically with academics in other faculties and institutions, spearheading a cross-disciplinary approach that drove academic collaborations and developments in areas such as engineering and the social sciences. These activities paved the way to the development of multidisciplinary informatics.
Peter was highly respected nationally and internationally for his research, invited to lecture and speak throughout the UK, Europe and the US, including a sabbatical period as Associate Visiting Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the most prestigious institutions in the USA for the study of computer science. He also provided consultancy to a number of industrial and commercial bodies and, through his research activities, became a leading figure in the Virtual Science Park. By using wide area multimedia networking, virtual environments and collaborative computing technologies, the University was able to develop a distributed science park that also led to innovative ways of delivering work-based learning and continued professional development outside the academic environment. He was also Deputy Director of the Keyworth Institute – encompassing manufacturing and information systems engineering. Peter’s work in virtual working environments was a key technology in looking at integrated manufacturing techniques with design ‘from cradle to grave’.
In addition to his highly active research career, Peter was a stimulating and conscientious supervisor and teacher, constantly looking for new ways to present material and to make cutting-edge techniques relevant to students. He was always willing to listen to ideas, and to learn from his students as well as presenting his own point of view. He was also an exemplary citizen of the University, taking on a wide range of formal and informal departmental roles, including serving as Admissions Tutor, Head of Department (1989-94), and Head of Division (from 1994). His willingness to pitch in and his gift for inspiring others made, over the years, a much larger contribution to departmental growth and administration than a simple list of all his roles and committee memberships could ever convey.
During his later years with the University, Peter fought hard against ill-health, maintaining an active research profile and a keen interest in his students. He took formal retirement from the University in 2012, although he continued to hold a part-time Visiting Professorship for a further two years, and to take as active an interest in departmental affairs as his health would allow.
Peter was highly respected as a researcher and a teacher, and his body of work has been instrumental in developing his subject, and in inspiring the careers of others. He will also be remembered, however, by those who worked alongside him, with great warmth and affection for his idiosyncratic style; his humour; and his care and consideration for others.
Donations to celebrate Peter’s life can be made to St Gemma’s Hospice (https://www.st-gemma.co.uk/in-memory-donation), who provided exceptional care, expertise and support to both Peter and Carreen.
The flag on the Parkinson Building was flown at half-mast on the day of the funeral in Peter’s memory.