Professor Jan Saxl

  • 05 May 2020

The College is deeply saddened to hear of the death of long-standing and much-loved Caius Fellow and Professor of Algebra at the University of Cambridge Professor Jan Saxl on 2 May 2020. He had been unwell for some time.

Jan was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia and came to this country in 1968. Educated at Bristol and Oxford, he received a D.Phil. in Mathematics in 1973. He held an IBM Research Fellowship at Hertford College Oxford, a postdoctoral position at the University of Illinois and a lectureship at Glasgow, as well as Visiting Research Fellowships at the University of Western Australia and a Visiting Professorship at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

He first arrived in Cambridge in 1976 to research his main interest, the theory of finite groups. He became a lecturer in mathematics that same year, together with Caius Fellows including Tim Pedley. He was elected to a fellowship in Caius in 1986. Jan became a popular Director of Studies (DoS) in Mathematics in 1990 with Paul Glendinning, now at Manchester. Jan continued as a DoS until 2015 latterly with Jonathan Evans.

In 2004, Jan became Professor of Algebra in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cambridge. He was Chairman of the Faculty Board of Mathematics for two years until 2006.

Jan was very active in College, most notably he was a valued member of the Research Fellowships Committee for four years, and supported the election of prominent academics in mathematics to the fellowship.

He became a Life Fellow of Gonville & Caius College on 1 October 2015.

Colleagues, staff and students will remember Jan with great affection. He was “a kind, phlegmatic, effective, knowledgeable, director of studies”, "an inspiring and devoted teacher", “an excellent mathematician” and a friend to many. The College offers its condolences to his family particularly Jan’s widow, the mathematician Ruth Williams, their daughter Miriam, and all Jan’s colleagues, friends and students around the world.



Image: Jan Saxl taken by Dan White

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