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Professor Emeritus Benno Moiseiwitsch (1927 - 2016):
Academic; mathematician and physicist


Professor Emeritus Benno Moiseiwitsch was a notable figure in the field of Applied Mathematics; though with numerous research collaborations right across the globe, he was always rooted in Belfast, at Queen’s University.

Bernard Lawrence Moiseiwitsch was born in London, one of three children, and the last surviving, of Jacob and Chana Moiseiwitsch. His academic interests were always principally in theoretical studies in atomic, molecular and optical physics (a later student of his recalled that “he seemed to know a lot about electron impact phenomena.”) He obtained his PhD in Applied Mathematics from University College London in 1952 (following his BSc from the same institution) before moving almost immediately to Belfast to take up a Lectureship at Queen’s University. He was successively promoted to Reader, was awarded a personal chair in Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1968, was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science from 1972 to 1975, and Head of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1977 in which post he remained until 1989. He retired in 1993.

His publications included three books, Variational Principles (1966); Electron Impact Excitation of Atoms (1968) and Integral Equations (1977), plus the undated How to solve Applied Mathematics Problems.

In his last years he lived a very private, some said a reclusive, life: visitors ringing his doorbell would be either ignored or just not noticed as the Professor Emeritus would usually spend hours playing the piano. This seems poignant as Moiseiwitsch had an uncle, also known as Benno, who was one of the leading international pianists of the middle of the twentieth century. (Born in Russia, he emigrated to the United Kingdom and became a naturalised citizen.Used to playing in the world’s great centres of music, he also performed in not-inconsiderable Belfast.) The Professor Emeritus nevertheless was publishing as late as 2011.

Professor Moiseiwitsch was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1969. He died suddenly and unexpectedly aged 88, survived by his wife of 63 years, Sheelagh, their four children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Born: 6 December 1927
Died: 16 September 2016
Richard Froggatt

Dr Sean Matthews; Sir Peter Froggatt; Dennis Coppel


Obituary, qub.ac.uk (based on information supplied by the Moiseiwitsch family); QUB Calendar 1985-1986; Brian Walker & Alf McCreary: Degrees of Excellence: The Story of Queen’s Belfast 1845-1995 (Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1994); private information