Robin Gandy

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Having learnt of the death of Robin Gandy, I would like to pass the
following personal recollection to the linear mailing list, if that is

I became acquainted with Robin Gandy in the last years of his life, in
particular in the year 1992-93. It is not up to me to celebrate his
important contributions to proof-theory; I would rather like to give a
recollection of his unique personality. His passionate interest in
mathematics lasted until the last days; he continued to write, to
advise students, to take part in conferences; in particluar, he
regularly attended the weekly logic seminar at the Oxford Mathematical
Institute.  There he had the habit of making disclaimers of his
understanding, such as ``I no longer follow demonstrations nor
definitions, only examples'', only to come up soon with a remark which
summarized perfectly the point. He was not intimidated by arrogance,
but rather saddened; he himself was able to pass sharp remarks with a
loud laughter, whithout ever sounding arrogant and comtemptuous; he
opened his house, offered his friendship and help with generosity and

In 1993 I asked his help on a general question about small values of
Ramsey's function; he soon came with a page of pictures, which he
showed to other friends, simply delighted by the beauty of these
objects. Indeed, his way of advising students included reproducing and
improving complicated calculations; he certainly valued and practiced
problem solving as a form of mental exercise. However, our last
interaction was a philosophical discussion with Dan Isaacson about the
intuitive notion of reasoning corresponding to provability in first
order Peano Arithmetic.

I do not believe that these qualities are the result of a genteel
intellectual environment, out of date in the age of competition for
big grants. Rather, they are the virtues of rare people: these
attitudes are learnt with with hard work, but appear as a natural
outflow of a rich nature. In fortunate cases, these virtues are
contagious: they are passed to the best students together with
knowledge. We all turn to these people in time of need; their help
keeps each of us going and their judgement puts our work in the right