Gary Roach

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Mathematician and academic

Born: October 8, 1933; Died: March 17, 2012.

Professor Gary Roach, who has died aged 78, was a mathematician and academic who specialised in applied analysis and authored standard texts and journals but also had a rich and varied life outside his profession. He was born in Wales and after a short spell in Persia, as it then was, the family returned to Britain at the outbreak of the Second World War and settled in Nottinghamshire, where he attended Southwell Minster School. While there, he showed great prowess in rugby union and, but for a serious injury, would have had a trial for the Welsh under-21s.

He gained his BSc Honours degree from the University of Wales in 1955 and joined the education branch of the Royal Air Force before taking up an appointment as a research mathematician with BP. During this period he studied part-time at Birkbeck College in London and was awarded an MSc with distinction in 1960. He gained his PhD from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (Umist) in 1964.

His thesis, Dynamical Theory of Viscous Tides in Close Binary Systems, led to the immediate award of a fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society. After a short spell as visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, he joined the department of mathematics at the University of Strathclyde in 1967. He was appointed professor in 1979 and emeritus professor in 1996. His research interests lay in the area of applied analysis. He had a long and distinguished list of publications containing books, conference proceedings and papers. One of the earliest entries in the list is a book on Green's Functions, published in 1970. A second edition appeared in 1981 and remains a standard reference book in its field. His experience in industry, both in the early days and through subsequent consultancy with the Ministry of Defence, Ferranti, ICI and British Gas, led to the study of many problems of practical importance. In their solution the tools of applied analysis, notably functional analysis and operator theory, have a major role to play.

A principal theme of Prof Roach's research was scattering theory, particularly inverse problems related to image improvement in radar, sonar and ultrasonic testing. He established fruitful collaborations with colleagues in locations as diverse as Delaware, Bonn, Patras, Athens, Calgary and Witwatersrand. The University of Strathclyde had a long-standing exchange agreement with the Technical University of Lodz, which he espoused with enthusiasm. There were regular visits by staff in both directions, while three students came from Lodz to study for Strathclyde PhDs under his direction. In recognition of his contributions to the exchange agreement and his eminence in the field of applied analysis, Prof Roach was awarded an honorary ScD degree by Lodz in 1993. This was in addition to the DSc he was awarded by the University of Manchester in 1991. Other distinctions included election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1977.

He continued writing in his retirement and his most recent book, co-authored with two of his Greek collaborators, appeared in March 2012. Sadly he never saw the final version in print. In all, he wrote five books, edited eight others, authored or co-authored over 150 papers and supervised 20 PhD students. He was also heavily involved with various journals. He gave loyal service to many bodies at local, national and international levels. Within the University of Strathclyde, he was head of the department of mathematics before becoming the first dean of the new enlarged faculty of science from 1982 to 1985. He was president of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, the leading mathematical society in Scotland, and served as convener of the Conference of Professors of Applied Mathematics. He was also involved in many activities beyond mathematics, including the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde Military Education Committee, of which he was vice-convener from 1992 to 1996 and convener in the 1996/97 session. In 1997 he was deacon of the Incorporation of Bonnetmakers and Dyers, one of the 14 incorporated crafts of the Trades House of Glasgow. In this role he played an active part in the city's affairs for that year, with an emphasis on charitable work and education. From 1996 he was a member of The Trades House of Glasgow School Craft Project Committee, visiting schools and taking a keen interest in what the pupils produced. At his instigation the committee introduced an award (The Deacon Convener's Achievement Award) to recognise outstanding work.

In 1983 he joined The Nomads Club. This body, formed in 1895, exists as a forum for discussion and debate, and he presented an annual paper to the club, on a matter chosen by the president of the year. This gave him considerable pleasure owing to the subject usually having absolutely nothing to do with science or mathematics. He was president in the 1998/99 session and was made an honorary member in 2010. In addition to all these activities, he pursued various hobbies. After mathematics, classical music was perhaps his greatest passion. He was a member of a philatelic club called The Vikings and specialised in the stamps of the Faroe Islands. He enjoyed walking in the hills and bagged many Munros. Gary Roach is survived by his wife Isobel, whom he met while working in Kuwait and married in 1960. They spent most of their married life in the Stirlingshire village of Fintry which he loved dearly.