Emeritus Professor Robert Michael (Bob) Loynes obituary

Born 1935, died 10 December 2021. Professor of Probability & Statistics in the Department of Probability & Statistics (forerunner of School of Mathematics & Statistics) 1969-1999


We are sad to report the death of Emeritus Professor Robert Michael (Bob) Loynes.

Bob was born in Gorleston, Norfolk in August 1935 and came to a chair in Sheffield via education at Cambridge, employment with Ferranti Ltd and lectureships in Manchester and Cambridge. He held the position for 30 years and also served the University in numerous other roles, most notably as Dean of Pure Science from 1989-92 and as a member of the Tapton Hall of Residence SCR. Externally he had roles in military education, research ethics and with the Civil Service Selection Board. He was an active consultant, both within and outside the University, including advising on the well-known Times Higher Good University Guide.

Bob’s early work was as a probabilist, with important results in queuing theory, though his later research interests were in statistical model building and time series analysis. He was eminent within the field, receiving an ScD in 1981, but it is for his contributions to statistical education that he will probably be best remembered by the profession.

Two particular initiatives were years ahead of their time: his work in international training programmes and his ideas on skills training. He worked for organizations including the United Nations, the International Statistical Institute, EUROSTAT and various overseas universities, both advising on designing statistics programmes in relation to national needs (particularly in developing countries) and giving courses himself. His book on the Teaching of Practical Statistics (co-authored with Sheffield colleague Clive Anderson) highlighted the practising statistician’s need for a broad skill set and sparked the discipline’s now well-established move from sanitized theoretical exercises, to tackling ill-posed real-world problems. He continued teaching on the course they set up to demonstrate the philosophy well into his retirement.

Bob is survived by his wife Jean and their three children Kathryn, Helen and Richard.

Written by Dr Eleanor Stillman