Peter Lee obituary

Other lives: Scholar of statistics and prominent York academic

My friend and colleague Peter Lee, who has died aged 76, was a lecturer in mathematics at the University of York and provost of Wentworth College there.

Peter was a specialist in statistics and an enthusiastic advocate for Bayesian statistics, which concerns subjective belief but teaches us how to adjust our beliefs in the light of evidence. Thus, people who start out with different but reasonable opinions will, following Bayes’s prescription, converge to a common belief. Peter’s book Bayesian Statistics: An Introduction (1989) is a standard textbook, its most recent edition published in 2012.

Peter was prominent in university affairs and defended staff interests as treasurer of the local branch of the Association of University Teachers. As provost he did a great deal to improve the experience of students.

He grew up in Leicester, the son of Alfred Lee, a technical representative, and his wife, Margaret (nee Crow), and on leaving Kibworth Beauchamp grammar school he studied at the University of Liverpool, where he gained a first in mathematics and won the Ronald Hudson prize for geometry and a Derby scholarship. As an outstanding scholar, he was allowed to “have a go” on a computer. For his doctorate at Churchill College, Cambridge, he studied mathematical statistics. He was a fellow of Peterhouse College before taking up his lecturership at York in 1972. On retiring in 2005, he was appointed an honorary fellow of York University.

A man of wide culture, Peter loved books, which he 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, spoke fluent Russian and travelled widely in Russia and elsewhere. He put his impressive voice to good use as quizmaster in the Charles XII and Wellington Arms pubs.

The words “affable” and “convivial” might have been coined to apply to Peter. He delighted in the company of students, as did they in his. Many of his past students remember him with the greatest affection. Some of them travelled great distances to see him in his final days. His May Day parties were a high point in the university calendar: for two hours Peter would stand behind a cauldron liberally dispensing a fearsome concoction of champagne, cider, vodka and peach slices (and who knows what else) that was the ruin of many an unsuspecting new guest.

Peter is survived by his sister, Penni, his niece, Claudia, and his great-nephew, George.

Tony Sudbery

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Peter Skrine obituary
Other lives: Professor of German who taught with humour and erudition

Celia Skrine

02, Aug, 2017 @5:37 PM

Article image
Brian Dann obituary
Other lives: Poet, publisher and polymath

Nigel Dann

02, Mar, 2017 @6:11 PM

Article image
Gordon Reece obituary
Other lives: Pioneer of computational fluid dynamics and of novel mathematics teaching methods for engineers

Alan Champneys

26, Mar, 2017 @5:37 PM

Article image
Malcolm Swan obituary
Other lives: Designer of innovative materials used by maths teachers worldwide

Hugh Burkhardt

21, May, 2017 @4:52 PM

Article image
Peter Neumann obituary
Other lives: Mathematician at Oxford University who did some of his best thinking on long bike rides

David Neumann

04, Jan, 2021 @10:36 AM

Article image
Jean Fisher obituary
Other lives: Writer who was a champion of art as a radical practice

Luke Dodd

14, Mar, 2017 @4:58 PM

Article image
John Hearle obituary
Other lives: Expert in textiles who advanced understanding of the behaviour of fibres

Richard Denyer

11, Aug, 2016 @2:23 PM

Article image
Alison Blamire obituary
Other lives: Architect with an award-winning practice who also taught architectural design

Alistair Blamire

29, Oct, 2017 @4:08 PM

Article image
Herschel Prins obituary
Other lives: Head of the school of social work at Leicester University, nurturing the careers of many future professionals

Michael Day

28, Jun, 2016 @2:27 PM

Article image
Rosemary MacDonald obituary
Other lives: Passionate advocate of education in all its forms

Alexa MacDonald

19, Jun, 2016 @4:35 PM