John Michael Hammersley. 21 March 1920 — 2 May 2004

Geoffrey Grimmett , Dominic Welsh

Elected FRS 1976


John Hammersley was a pioneer among mathematicians, who defied classification as pure or applied; when introduced to guests at Trinity College, Oxford, he would say he did ‘difficult sums’. He believed passionately in the importance of mathematics with strong links to real–life situations and in a system of mathematical education in which the solution of problems takes precedence over the generation of theory. He will be remembered for his work on percolation theory, subadditive stochastic processes, self–avoiding walks and Monte Carlo methods, and, by those who knew him, for his intellectual integrity and his ability to inspire and to challenge. Quite apart from his extensive research achievements, for which he earned a reputation as an outstanding problem–solver, he was a leader in the movement of the 1950s and 1960s to rethink the content of school mathematics syllabuses.