Benjamin Baumslag on James Wiegold

So James Wiegold is dead. It comes as a surprise. It should not, since he has been desperately ill for so many years. But time and time again, after a gruelling period of chemotherapy, he returned, tired, but still cheerful, and still optimistic. Each occasion it was a miracle, and we began to take them for granted. But at last the miracles had to come to an end.

His life is easy to sum up; whatever he did, he excelled. And he did many things.

He excelled intellectually, starting at Junior School. He came from a very poor mining family in Wales. So exceptional was his school work at Junior School, that he got a place in a grammar school, something which had never occurred at that school for any other pupil before. It was an extraordinary event in his poverty stricken village. On his first day the whole village watched him on his way to the Grammar School. He excelled all the way to a doctorate in mathematics at Manchester University. After that he was on the staff of the mathematics department at the University of South Wales at Cardiff.

He excelled both as a lecturer and a researcher, with many papers to his credit, and a large number of doctoral students.

Mathematics was a central part of his life and he served as editor on the London Mathematical Society, but he had many other interests. Wales, the Welsh language, the church choir, family and friends and charity. He was justifiably proud of his three children.

He excelled as a father and a husband. When his dear wife became ill with dementia, he excelled as a carer, even though by then he had been brought low by his leukaemia. "It was a privilege to look after her," he told me.

He excelled as a patient. His attitude was that he would live his life to the utmost, ill or not. So, even though very ill, he insisted in flying to Australia to be present at his sister- s marriage, only two years ago. All of us were fearful of what might happen, but he made the journey and enjoyed it.

If he had to choose, he chose always friendship and kindness above everything else.

Of course we regret the passing of a hero and a saint. But it was a very fine life. He leaves behind him his three grown up children and an enormous number of very grateful and appreciative friends.

Last Updated January 2015