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The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1934

Professor D. M. Y. Sommerville

Professor D. M. Y. Sommerville

It was with sincere feelings of regret that we learned of the death early in the year of Professor Duncan McLaren Young Sommerville, M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S.E., F.R.A.S., F.N.Z.Inst., who had been Professor of Mathematics at Victoria University College since 1915.

Towards the end of the third term in 1933 Professor Sommerville sought medical advice on account of heart trouble, and obtained leave for the remainder of the session, hoping to resume his duties as usual this year, but he died suddenly at the end of January.

Professor Sommerville was born in Bewar, Rajputana, India, in 1879, and was the son of the Rev. Dr. James Sommerville. He was educated at Perth Academy, gaining medals there in mathematics and classics, afterwards proceeding to the University of St. Andrews for a four-year degree course. He graduated Master of Arts and Master of Science with First Class Honours in mathematics and natural philosophy, winning the Ramsay Scholarship and Berry Scholarship for mathematics and natural philosophy.

Gaining a grant from the University Courr in 1903, Professor Sommerville was appointed Assistant to the Professor in Mathematics, and in 1905 he gained the degree of Doctor of Science from St. Andrews. In 1908 he was appointed a Lecturer in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at St. Andrews, and in 1915 he came to Victoria College to take the chair of Mathematics.

Of him, Professor R. Scott Lang, Regius Professor in Mathematics at St. Andrews, said, "He was undoubtedly the ablest and most distin page 103 guished mathematician the University has produced for a generation at least."

Professor Sommerville's ability was widely recognised, and despite the calls on his time demanded by his teaching duties, he still continued to do a considerable amount of original work, contributing papers to many societies, and writing no fewer than four books on the subject of geometry, in which he was deeply interested.

A thorough teacher, Professor Sommerville at the same time brought to his teaching an artistry, which can only be fully appreciated by those students who have attended his lectures or read his books. He was an understanding teacher, and was fully aware of the difficulties confronting the young student, and his kindly and helpful advice was greatly appreciated by all.

Professor Sommerville was Chairman of the College Library Committee for a number of years, doing much valuable work whilst on that committee, and the College Mathematical and Physical Society too owes much to his interest and support.

Professor Sommerville was gifted with his brush, and exhibited a number of times at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. By his death Victoria College and New Zealand have lost a mathematician whose brilliant work, extending over thirty years, had gained him international recognition.

The large attendance, including many of his old scholars, at his funeral service, was indeed a testimony to his loveable personality. His death robbed the College of a very able teacher, and an old and valued friend.