Remembering Dr Peter Lee

Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics from 1972 to 2005

Dr Peter Lee, who died on 10 March 2017 of a brain tumour after a short illness, was a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics from 1972 to 2005. Professor Emeritus, Tony Sudbery from the Department of Mathematics remembers him.

For a long time Peter was the only specialist in statistics on the staff of the department (though in the teaching of the subject he was keenly supported by Dr Richard Crossley and others). He was an enthusiastic advocate for Bayesian statistics and a leader of the modern revival of this form of statistics; his book Bayesian Statistics: an introduction, which was first published in 1989 and went into its fourth edition in 2012, is a standard textbook.

Peter dancing on Degree Day in the early 70s, when the departmental reception was a livelier event than it became in later years

Peter was active in the running of the department, being Secretary of the Board of Studies (and writing minutes which made unusually entertaining reading), and then Chair from 1995 to 1999. He was also prominent in university committee work and in defending staff interests as Treasurer of the local branch of the Association of University Teachers (now the UCU). He was Provost of Wentworth College from 1985 to 2005. He was also a member of Court of the University of Liverpool.

Peter dispensing punch at one of his Mayday parties. The compo- sition should be regarded, not as a reflection on the ineptitude of the photographer, but as a description of the effect of Peter’s punch.

Peter grew up in Leicester and was an undergraduate at the University of Liverpool, graduating in 1962. He was a graduate student in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics in Cambridge, where his supervisor was John Kingman, and was awarded a PhD in 1966 for a thesis on Infinitely Divisible Stochastic Processes. He was then a Fellow of Peterhouse College until he took up a lecturership at York in 1972. He retired in 2005 and became an Honorary Fellow of the department.

Peter was a man of wide culture. He loved books, which he can be truly said to have devoured voraciously. He was always ready with an apt, and often humorous, quotation. He was a founding member and treasurer of the York Bibliographical Society, and a prominent member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. He spoke fluent Russian, and travelled widely in Russia and elsewhere.

Flyer for a MathSoc lecture by Peter on the statistical analysis of literary texts. The students have included an allusion to one of Peter’s favourite snacks

The words “affable” and “convivial” might have been coined to apply to Peter. He always got on extremely well with students, many of whom re- member him with the very greatest affection. Some of these travelled great distances to see him in his final days. His Mayday parties, timed to coincide with Labour Day and always hosted by Peter wearing a red tie, were a high point in the university calendar. For two hours Peter would stand behind a cauldron liberally dispensing a fearsome concoction of sparkling wine and peach slices (and who knows what else) that was the ruin of many an un- suspecting new guest. Some of us older hands somehow never acquired from previous years the wisdom to treat this potion with the respect it deserved. Outside the university, he put his impressive voice to good use as quizmaster in the Charles XII and the Wellington Arms. Without his huge personality, York will be a less colourful place.

He is survived by his sister Penni, his niece Claudia and his great-nephew George. He is mourned by them and by an immense host of friends.