Paul M. Cohn
Dorothy S. Meyler
Anthony F. Ruston


Paul Moritz Cohn FRS died on the 20 April 2006, aged 82. Since he became a member of the London Mathematical Society in 1957, he has served the Society in many ways; he was Secretary 1965-67, he was a Member of Council 1968-75 and again in 1979-84, and he was President in 1982-84. He was Editor of the LMS Monographs 1968-77 and 1980-93.

He was born in Hamburg on 8 January 1924, the only child of Julia and James Cohn. He was sent to England on the Kindertransport in the spring of 1939, and never saw his parents again. After a period working on a chicken farm and then in a factory, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1944 to study mathematics. Despite being prevented from attending for some of his first year, he was able to take his first year exams and do so well that there was no further obstruction to his studies and he obtained his BA in 1948 and his PhD working with Philip Hall in 1951. After a year at the university of Nancy, he returned to a lectureship in Manchester where he remained for 10 years. He came to London in 1962 as a Reader at Queen Mary College and subsequently became Professor of Mathematics at Bedford College, University of London, in 1967. He was awarded the Senior Berwick Prize in 1974. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1980. When the colleges of London were reorganised in 1984, he moved to a Professorship at University College, London, and became the Astor Professor of Mathematics there in 1986 until his retirement in 1989. Since then he has been an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL where he has continued to write papers and books until his death.

Paul Cohn was an algebraist. His early work was in many areas within algebra including groups, Lie algebras and rings. However, in the '60s he began the work that was to be his main interest; the study of rings, in particular his beautiful theories of the free associative algebra and of skew fields. His ground-breaking and lonely work in this area involved the development of techniques that have been of increasing importance throughout algebra and to a lesser extent in algebraic geometry and topology. He has published many books at both research and undergraduate level; important works include Free Rings and their Relations, Skew Field Constructions and the three volume work Algebra.

He leaves behind his wife Deirdre whom he married in 1958, his two daughters Juliet and Yael, and five grandchildren.

Aidan Schofield writes: I met Paul Cohn in 1980 when I became his graduate student at Bedford College in Regent's Park. His books had been an inspiration and a delight for me and he himself fulfilled all I had been led to expect from them. We talked constantly about mathematics in a way that endangered our lives as we walked from Bedford College to seminars at Kings College; it was impossible to pay necessary attention to traffic with such interesting ideas flying between us. I miss those days and now I shall miss him.

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Miss Dorothy Skeel Meyler, who was the longest-standing member of the LMS, elected a member on 13 December 1934, died on 16 June 2006 at the age of 97. Born in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire on 30 September 1908, she entered the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (as it was then) as a College Scholar on 1 October 1925, aged 17. She graduated with First Class Honours In Pure Mathematics in 1928 followed by a First Class Honours in Applied Mathematics in 1929.

She then proceeded to work for an MSc under the supervision of Professor V.C. Morton on a subject in classical projective geometry. But alas, her plans went awry when in February 1931 she was diagnosed to be suffering from the dreaded disease of that time, tuberculosis. She was in hospital for more than a year. However, partly through characteristic determination, she recovered and was able to submit her MSc in January 1933. In October 1933 she went up to Newnham College, Cambridge to study for a PhD under the supervision of W.V.D. Hodge, one of the first (if not the first) of his research students.

Her studies were going well, but after only one year a vacancy occurred in her old department and she was invited to apply for an Assistant Lectureship. With the job position as it was then, Hodge advised her that she really had no choice but apply. Hodge tried unsuccessfully to find ways for her to complete the residential requirements for a PhD, but unfortunately her new department were not supportive in that respect. She then became one of a few female lecturers in Mathematics in the UK.

Although she did have three publications to her name, two of them in the Society’s Proceedings and Journal, her research did not really ever take off. Her position was further exacerbated by the advent of the World War in 1939, as she had to take over the teaching of a member of the applied mathematics staff who had been called up for military service – she claimed that at one time she was lecturing for 22 hours per week. However, she earned herself a tremendous reputation as a teacher. She set high standards for herself and was equally demanding of her students. These students truly respected her, were uniform in their praise of her ability as a teacher and her influence on their thinking. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1957 around the time of the appearance of the still useful book, A Compendium of Mathematics and Physics which she co-authored with Sir Graham Sutton, Director-General of the Meteorological Office. She was Acting Head of Pure Mathematics on two occasions. She retired on 30 September 1975 on her 67th birthday after a 50 year connection with the College, interrupted only by a year of illness, a year in Cambridge and a year in Harvard late in her career.

On her retirement she hoped to find time to do many things that she had not had time for earlier, like buying a television. But that was not to be; poor eyesight developed over the years to become total blindness later. But she faced life with the same fortitude and determination right to the end.

A.O. Morris

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Dr Anthony Ruston, who was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society on 19 December 1946, died on 28 June 2005, aged 84. He served as Secretary to the Society from 1950-53 and as a Vice President from 1954-55.

His first and postgraduate degrees were at Cambridge, and he held a position at King's College London from 1949 before being appointed Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University in 1953. He moved to the University of Wales, Bangor in 1963 as a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics. He was promoted to Reader in 1968, and retired in 1977.

He has 18 publications reviewed on MathSciNet, in the areas of normed spaces, Banach spaces, and Fredholm Theory. His last publication was Fredholm Theory in Banach Spaces, Cambridge Tracts in Mathematics, No. 86 (1986), covering the previous 25 years' research work, and still available.

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