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Monday 2nd
posted by Peter Lazenby in Features

A LEADING mathematician and left political activist in Leeds has died.

Barry Cooper, professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds, co-authored books on World War II Bletchley Park code-breaker Alan Turing and his theories.

He became one of the world’s foremost experts on Turing, giving interviews and talks internationally.

Cooper was also leading figure in the 1970s in the Chile Solidarity Campaign.

After the CIA-assisted 1973 military coup in Chile, hundreds of political prisoners were saved from execution by being welcomed to European countries, including Britain.

Cooper was active in welcoming dozens of Chilean refugees to Leeds, helping them find homes and work. Some arrived with only a carrier bag and a guitar, and first point of refuge was Leeds Trades Club in Savile Mount.

Three generations of some Chilean families have reason to be thankful for Cooper’s activism.

He grew up in Bognor Regis and attended Chichester Grammar School, during which time he played scrum-half for the under-16s England rugby team. He won a scholarship to study mathematics at Oxford University. After graduating in 1966, he threw himself into academia and spent two years as a lecturer at UC Berkeley in the US.

Returning to Leeds in the 1970s he combined working as a mathematician at the university with politics and community activism.

He was candidate in local elections for the Communist Party of Great Britain.

His many interests included jazz, and he co-founded Leeds Jazz which brought artists to the city of the calibre of Courtney Pine, Paul Motian, Archie Shepp and Jan Garbarek. He was also keen on marathon running.

Academic tributes included one from Alexandre Borovik of the London Mathematical Society’s De Morgan Forum.

Borovik wrote: “He was a major figure in computability theory, especially degree theory, also exploring in the last 10-15 years wider and more philosophical ramifications.

“Barry had been exceptionally energetic in recent years, and died with several papers and books still in progress. He played a leading role in developing Computability in Europe, of which he was president, and also by chairing the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee, [which] helped to drive the international and hugely successful Turing Centenary in 2012.”

Cooper leaves his first partner Sue Buckle and their two daughters, Carrie and Shirin, and his wife Kate Cooper and their two sons Evan and Mark.