By Dr Geoff Smith
Our long-standing friend and colleague, Professor Edward Fraenkel FRS, died on Saturday 27 April at the age of 91. This is not the place to record his long and distinguished career in the rigorous study of hydrodynamics, save to say that he was an eminent researcher, and won the Senior Whitehead Prize of the London Mathematical Society in 1989.
He was born in Germany, a son of the eminent classical philologist Eduard Fraenkel. The family fled from Nazi Germany to Britain when Eduard was dismissed from his academic post because of the antisemitic employment laws of 1933. After a short spell in Cambridge, the family settled in Oxford where the young Edward was educated at the Dragon School. Edward was sent to complete his secondary education in Canada during World War II, while his parents remained in the UK. He recalled his years in Canada with great fondness. He entered the University of Toronto to read aeronautical engineering at the age of 16, and aged 20 he wrote a thesis on the design of nozzles for supersonic wind tunnels.
A 'brilliant career'
After the war he had a career in aeronautical engineering (as it was then called). He returned to the UK as a Scientific Officer in the Royal Aircraft Establishment. He then worked in universities: in Glasgow, Imperial College, Cambridge and had a sabbatical in Caltech. He became a research professor at the University of Sussex in 1971, and then a staff member in 1974. In summary, he was drawn towards mathematics by his desire to see engineering calculations put on a rigorous footing, and his work often consisted of applying the methods and standards of pure mathematics to problems of applied mathematics. As a happy climax to his brilliant career, he spent the past 30 years at the University of Bath where he continued to do original mathematical research and to attend seminars and make pointed comments until quite recently.
Relationship with computing
Edward had an idiosyncratic relationship with computing. He mastered the use of the Texas Instruments TI-81 calculator nearly 30 years ago, a device which was, in 1991, a cutting edge graphing calculator. Since it was sufficient for his purposes, he continued to use it as his sole computing resource for the rest of his career. Having mastered one computing device, he was not going to waste important research time learning to use another. The near universal availability of home computers did not extend as far as the Fraenkel household. The most important of Edward's emails were printed for him at the University of Bath, since that was the only interface available. There was a crisis about 10 years ago, when his TI-81 went on the blink. Happily a colleague was able to obtain a refurbished second-hand model, so Edward's work could continue unhindered.
Enthusiasm for cycling, skiing and pedantry
He cycled enthusiastically, but not without incident, on the hills around Bath in his 70s and was a skiing enthusiast well into his 80s. He remained an excellent raconteur. He was an enthusiastic pedant, waging war on sloppy editors who thought they knew better than Edward Fraenkel, and turning these battles into lunchtime entertainments for his colleagues. Many of us will have overheard his unfashionably posh tones in the Claverton rooms, as he railed amusingly either against himself, or the decline of civilization.
He is survived by his wife Beryl, two daughters, and grand and great-grand children, and is remembered with respect and great affection by his colleagues.
A memorial will be held at the end of May. If you would like to attend, please contact Department Coordinator, Elaine Ritchie for more details.