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Richard Kenneth Guy (1916 - 2020)
September 2020 TOC icon
Richard Kenneth Guy (1916 - 2020)
September 2020 (Vol. 52, No. 4)
Richard Guy at Assiniboine
Richard Guy at Mount Assiniboine on his 90th Birthday, 2006.

We mourn the loss of Richard Kenneth Guy who passed away on March 9, 2020, at the impressive age of 103. Richard was a mathematical giant who made enormous and lasting contributions to our discipline. Active till the end, he was a distinguished researcher, a passionate educator, a generous philanthropist and an avid mountaineer. To us, he was also a valued colleague, mentor and friend.

This collection of contributions from colleagues and former students at the University of Calgary recounts some of Richard’s involvement in research and mentorship, with special emphasis on the more than 13 years of his life after ninety. Richard’s interests were too diverse and his contributions too numerous to do them all justice in one article. As a result, we chose to focus on three main areas of mathematics, drawing from experts in these fields for their recollections and perspectives on Richard’s impact. A section on combinatorial game theory was provided by Richard’s former doctoral student Richard Nowakowski. Richard’s University of Calgary colleague Tibor (Ted) Bisztriczky supplied a section on geometry. A section on number theory was written by Richard’s Calgary colleagues Mike Jacobson, Hugh Williams and the first author. Outreach and mentorship were equally important to Richard as research, and he has inspired many young scholars. We solicited input from two of his former University of Calgary protégés, Alex Fink and Julian Salazar, with whom he kept in contact until the last weeks of his life. We have also included a brief itemized biography and a short epilogue offering insight into other aspects of Richard’s life both in and outside mathematics.

We thank all the contributors and are indebted to Claude Levesque (Université Laval) for providing the French translation of the English original. The photographs herein are courtesy of the University of Calgary, Ted Bisztriczky, Yanmei Fei, Jane Lancaster, Chic Scott, Hugh Williams and the first author.


This brief itemized biography highlights milestones in Richard’s life. Much of it is drawn from the delightful book Young at Heart – The Inspirational Lives of Richard and Louise Guy (The Alpine Club of Canada, Canmore 2012) by Chic Scott, author, mountaineer and long-time friend of the Guys.

  • Richard is born on September 30, 1916, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire (UK)

  • BSc 1938 and MSc 1941 from Cambridge; Teacher diploma in 1939 from Birmingham

  • Taught at Stockport Grammar School near Manchester 1939-1941

  • Married Nancy Louise Thirian on December 21, 1940; three children (Elizabeth Anne, Michael, Peter)

  • Meteorologist with the Royal Air Force (rank of Flight Lieutenant) 1941-1946; posted in Scotland, Iceland and Bermuda

  • Taught again at Stockport Grammar School 1946-1947

  • Taught at Goldsmith’s College (a teacher training college) in London 1947-1951

  • Faculty member at the University of Malaya, Singapore, 1951-1961

  • Faculty member at IIT Delhi 1962-1965

  • Faculty member at the University of Calgary 1965-1982, Professor Emeritus since 1982

  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from University of Calgary 1991

  • Richard and Louise Guy Lecture Series endowed as a gift from Louise to Richard for his 90th birthday, 2006

  • Louise passes away at age 92 on September 30, 2010, on Richard’s 94th birthday

  • Richard and Louise Guy Hut in Yoho National Park opens its doors to overnight backcountry skiers, 2016

  • City of Calgary Top 7 Over 70 Award and Immigrants of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017

  • Last “Climb for Wilderness” for the Alberta Wilderness Association on April 27, 2019

  • Richard passes away on March 9, 2020


Renate Scheidler is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary. Her area of research is number theory, with a particular interest in algorithms and computations in global fields in the context of algebraic number theory, arithmetic geometry and cryptography.

Robert Woodrow is a Faculty Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Calgary. His research interests include logic and graph theory, specifically the theory of relations, homogenous structures, ordered sets and Ramsey theory.

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