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Maths prof from Blackpool slums dies

A BLACKPOOL "slum kid", who was acknowledged as one of the world's top historians of mathematics, has died at the age of 75.

Prof Tom Whiteside could trace his family back 500 years to his namesake who leased from Cockersands Abbey, an area in the central part of the Fylde coast, now roughly where the Tower stands.

Although he might have spent most of his life in Cambridge, Prof Whiteside's children intend carrying out their father's wish for his ashes to be scattered back in Blackpool after tomorrow's funeral in Wokingham, Berkshire.

Prof Whiteside was born into poverty in Blacow Street, one of the long-demolished slum areas off Talbot Road. His mother died when he was five and he was brought up by his father, who had been severely wounded in the First World War.

Tom attended St John's School and, against the odds but blessed with an exceptional brain, he made his way to Blackpool Grammar School on a scholarship.

Following retirement in 1999 as Emeritus Professor of the History of Mathematics and Exact Sciences at Cambridge University, he returned the favour of gratitude to his old school by writing a 63-page essay on the early history of the Raikes Parade Secondary School, which became Blackpool Grammar School in 1933. A copy of this paper is now lodged in the Blackpool Reference Library.

Tom was awarded a state scholarship to Bristol University where he gained a BA Honours (First Class) in French and Latin, returning home in the summer months to work as a deckchair attendant on Blackpool Prom.

Throughout his time at Bristol, his devouring interest remained mathematics and he went on to St Catherine's College, Cambridge, gaining a PhD for a thesis in the History of Mathematics in 17th Century England.

He rose to become a leading world authority on Newton's mathematics. His edition of Newton's Mathematical Papers is universally known as Whiteside's Papers.

Tom spent two years in National Service, from 1954, in Libya and Cyprus, as a trooper in the 5th Tank Regiment. Back in civilian life in 1956, he set out on a lifelong academic career culminating in a personal chair in the History of Mathematics and Exact Sciences at Cambridge University in 1987 when he was also awarded a doctorate of Lancaster University.

In 1962 he married Ruth Robinson, who died in 1997. He leaves daughter Philippa son Simon and four grandchildren.

 
 
 

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