John Humphrey Smith

by R P Gillespie

John Humphrey Smith, H M Inspector of Schools, died at the age of 57 in Lincoln County Hospital on 2nd August 1963 as a result of a motor accident. Mr Smith was born in Kilmarnock and after a distinguished career at Kilmarnock Academy entered Glasgow University in 1923. He graduated Master of Arts with First Class Honours in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in 1927 and was at once appointed an Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics at Glasgow University. He remained in Glasgow for eleven years and many former students will remember with gratitude his outstanding abilities as a lecturer. During this time he completed his training as a schoolmaster at Jordanhill Training College.

In 1938 Mr Smith became Principal Teacher of Mathematics at Campbeltown Grammar School and in 1943 he transferred to a similar position at Dollar Academy. At Dollar he also served as Housemaster of Tait House, one of the boarding houses attached to the school. After five years at Dollar, he was appointed to H M Inspectorate and it was now that he was to make his unique contribution to the mathematical life of Scotland. Thanks to his experience both as university teacher and as schoolmaster, he was able to provide an invaluable link between university and school mathematics. In spite of official reticence in these matters the outstanding quality of his work in connection with the examinations in mathematics for the Scottish Leaving Certificate is an open secret. In the last year or two he was much involved in the discussions on the introduction of modern topics into school mathematics and on the related problems arising from the preparation of the new syllabus for the proposed Advanced Grade examination for the Scottish Certificate of Education. In these discussions his wise counsel will be sorely missed.

Mr Smith was for many years a member of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and at the time of his death was a member of the Committee of the Society. He regularly attended meetings of the Society and of the Glasgow Mathematical Association and gave talks to both bodies on school mathematics.

Mr Smith is survived by his wife and a son and daughter.

This obituary was written by R P Gillespie and published in the Proceedings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society. The reference is:
R P Gillespie, Obituary : John Humphrey Smith, Proc. Edinburgh Math. Soc. 14 (1) (1963), 87.