Maths genius leaves £1m to help people of Inverness

A mathematician left more than £1 million in his will to help care for people in need in his adopted city of Inverness.

Picture: PA

Klaus Roth was the first British winner of the Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and his discoveries in number theory led to him being considered one of the greatest mathematicians of the second half of the 20th century.

Roth died last year aged 90 at his home in Inverness, to where he had retired more than 20 years ago.

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And it has now emerged he had built up a £1.3m fortune by the time of his death.

He instructed the bulk of his estate should be split between health charities Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and MacMillan Cancer Support. Roth stipulated his bequests should be used to help elderly and ill people in the city of Inverness.

He also left his academic awards, including his Fields Medal, and a £100,000 gift to Peterhouse College at Cambridge University, where he had studied maths.

Roth was born to Jewish 
parents in 1925, in Breslau. Faced with increasing Nazi persecution, the family moved to England in 1933. They settled in London before Roth went to study in Cambridge.

Although Roth quickly gained a reputation as a prodigious mathematical talent, his time at Peterhouse was blighted by his crippling anxiety during examinations.

He graduated with a third class degree and then took a teaching position at Gordonstoun. After a year he was accepted on to a master’s course at University College, London. Having completed his master’s, he became a lecturer there in 1950.

He met his wife, Melek Khairy, after she sat in the front row of his lectures. For Roth it was love at first sight, and by the end of the year he delegated marking her papers to a colleague as he could no longer trust his impartiality. They married in 1955 and had a happy union until her death in 2002. There were no children.

Roth’s best-known work was in the field of Diophantine approximation, a branch of pure mathematics that deals with the approximation of real numbers by rational numbers.

He was only 30 when he made a significant contribution to the Thue-Siegel theorem by proving that any irrational algebraic number has an approximation exponent equal to two.