Dr John Amson
Year of birth
Year of death
We were very sorry to learn of the death of John Amson, formerly of the School of Maths and Statistics at St Andrews. John died on Tuesday 14 March 2023, aged 95.
A Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at St Andrews from 1965 to 1982, John came to higher education, via a PhD from Cambridge in functional analysis, after an earlier career in town planning.
He retired in 1982, becoming an Honorary Senior Lecturer, and set up a Navigational Software Firm, which he continued to direct until 1999. He created the first commercial Tidal Prediction Software Package. In his retirement he retained a variety of other intellectual interests: researching Gregory’s Meridian, and his split seconds clock, in great detail, together with Oliver Byrne’s dual arithmetic.
John’s passionate interest in the importance of Gregory’s Meridian was the driving force behind efforts which led to the installation of the brass meridian line in South Street in 2014, the spot where children now stop to stand with one foot in the western hemisphere, and one in the east.
St Andrews, John argued, was the place where time began, Gregory’s Meridian pre-dating the Greenwich Meridian by 200 years. But for a quirk of fate, and the arbitrary choice of Greenwich, we might all have been setting our watches to St Andrews Mean Time.
John was a member of the London Mathematical Society for nearly 70 years, and a founder member of, remaining active in, the Alternative Natural Philosophy Association, a community looking at alternative models of physics.
He was a collector of, and fount of knowledge on, the history of computing hardware; just before he died he donated a collection of early computing equipment to the University Museums.
His mind continued to bubble over with ideas, although he was increasingly frail. His wife, Christine Crow, nursed him at home till the end. We are grateful to Kenneth Falconer and several of John’s former colleagues in St Andrews for the information in this short tribute.