Department of Mathematics


Obituary: Peter John Bushell

Peter pictured with his wife, June

Peter began as a Lecturer at Sussex on 1st October 1964 and retired as an Emeritus Professor on 30 September 2001. 

He was born in Eton in Buckinghamshire (now in Berkshire), and went to school in Aberdeen, where he also did his first degree.

He then went to Oxford for a second undergraduate degree, followed in 1961 by a DPhil.

He spent five years working as a tutor and lecturer, mostly at Oxford with a year at Dartmouth College in the United States, before proceeding to Sussex where he was to make his career.

At Sussex, he taught a wide variety of courses and was known for his gift of clarity as a lecturer.

Another gift was that of unshakeable optimism, which helped carry him through service as Chairman of Mathematics from 1980 to 1983, a time of deep cuts and uncertainty in British higher education.

Later he was the founding Dean of the then School of Mathematical Sciences, from 1995 to 1998.

Earlier, he had been Warden of the Isle of Thorns, a conference centre at Chelwood Gate that the University had on long lease.

Peter was a research analyst, whose research contributions were characterised by elegance and ingenuity.

A striking illustration of his work is given by his papers on the Cayley-Hilbert metric, in which he displayed considerable intuition and insight when establishing the existence of fixed points of certain nonlinear maps and of solutions of nonlinear differential equations, both ordinary and partial.

He was an absolute master of classical analysis, his encyclopaedic knowledge being indispensable in his widely quoted work on ptrigonometric functions and their connection with the p-Laplacian.

He had high standards and an ability to get to the heart of the matter with minimum fuss.                              

His last paper, with David Edmunds, in 2018 was ‘The evolution of PDEs (partial differential equations) in the UK’.

He is survived by his wife June, two sons and six grandchildren.

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Thursday, 4 June 2020