George Leo Watson

George Watson, son of Joseph Watson, was born in Whitby, England, on 13 December 1909 and died on 9 January 1988. He attended Whitby County School and then entered Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1927, where S. Pollard and A. S. Besicovitch were his tutors. Upon graduating in 1930, he entered the Indian Civil Service and remained in India till independence.

He had taken L. E. Dickson's books out to India to study number theory, since it was a widely held view in the Indian Civil Service that one needed a hobby to avoid drinking to excess. However he felt that they were so badly written that he ended up rewriting the results for himself. He became a District Commissioner at Nagpur in Central Provinces and married while there.
In later years his signature was noticeably smooth and rapid and he said that he had once tried to count how many times he signed his name in a day, but gave up when he reached 100 before lunch time.
When India achieved independence in 1948, he and his wife came back to England and settled in the south of London and he now began teaching in Acton Technical College (later to become part of Brunel University).

He came to the attention of the wider mathematical world in 1951 when he published his proof of the 7-cube theorem, which was much simpler than the previous proof by Linnik. Harold Davenport was then head of the mathematics department at University College London and through him, Watson became a lecturer at UCL in 1955. He was a lecturer there until 1961, Reader 1961-70, Professor 1970-77 and Professor Emeritus 1977-1988.

In 1968 he was awarded the London Mathematical Society's Senior Berwick Prize for his papers Diophantine equations reducible to quadratics, Non-homogeneous cubic equations and Asymmetric inequalities for indefinite quadratic forms.

He had one step-son, but no children of his own. He was a very kind man, who is fondly remembered by his former doctoral students Roger Cook and Terence Jackson.

Prepared by Terence Jackson with help from Roger Cook.

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