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10 February 2021

In memory of Colin Bushnell

King's College London is saddened to report the death of Colin Bushnell, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Mathematics.

Colin Bushnell

Colin first joined the Department in 1965 as an undergraduate student of mathematics and, after graduating with a first-class honour’s degree, stayed on to study for a PhD under the supervision of Professor Albrecht Fröhlich. After the award of his PhD in 1972, Colin was appointed lecturer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but then returned to King's in 1975 to take up a position as lecturer, being subsequently promoted to Reader in 1985 and to Professor in 1990.


After initial seminal work with Professor Fröhlich on the arithmetic properties of Gauss sums for p-adic division algebras, in a major part of his research Colin led the twenty-five-year development, partly in collaboration with Professor Philip Kutzko (Iowa) and Professor Guy Henniart (Paris), of a distinctive family of methods that revolutionised the representation theory of reductive p-adic groups and enabled major breakthroughs in the study of the local Langlands correspondence. This work was hugely influential and highly acclaimed, with Colin being an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1994, a recipient of the Senior Whitehead Prize of the London Mathematical Society in 1995 and an elected inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2013. He also regularly held visiting appointments at institutions such as the IAS in Princeton and the IHES in Paris.


Colin's passion for research was clear to everyone who met him and, even after retirement in 2014, this enthusiasm, and energy, didn't wane and he continued to produce major breakthroughs, with an article (jointly authored with Professor Henniart) being published in the Annals of Mathematics as recently as 2017.


Despite his magnificent research achievements and considerable international recognition, Colin retained throughout his career a wonderful affection for King's as an institution, and worked selflessly and proudly to help ensure its success, serving as Head of the Department of Mathematics from 1996 to 1997 and as Head of the School of Physical Sciences and Engineering from 1997 to 2004, and then as an Assistant Principal from 2004 until his retirement during which time he had primary responsibility for overseeing a major redevelopment of the entire historic Strand campus. In recognition of this tremendous service Colin was elected a Fellow of King's College London in 2002.


Colin was also an enthusiastic and very successful supervisor of PhD students, and a dedicated and popular teacher of undergraduate students, with a distinctive lecturing style that impressed students and colleagues alike.


For these reasons, amongst many others, Colin has left an enormous impression on the King's Department of Mathematics and he will be sorely missed.