Christians in Science

Obituary – Professor James Taylor

Obituary – Professor James Taylor

Samuel James Taylor Dec 13 1929 – 22 Jan 2020

James Taylor was born on Dec. 13, 1929 in Carrickfergus, N. Ireland. His parents were both teachers working for the Ulster based Quo Iboe mission in Nigeria and he spent most of the first 12 years of his life in Africa, tutored by his mother.  He returned to Ireland with his family just after the start of the 2nd world war in a convoy to complete his school education. He finished school by 16years age and got a scholarship to Cambridge but was initially unable to take it, going first to Queens University to do his BSc in physics and mathematics, then to Peterhouse, Cambridge to complete a PhD in Pure Mathematics. For the third year of his fellowship he visited Princeton, meeting Einstein who by that time was in his twilight years. While in Cambridge he rekindled his relationship with my mother, Maureen Scott and proposed to her by mail. They were married in 1955.

James’ first appointment was in Birmingham as mathematics lecturer, followed by chairs at Westfield College, Liverpool University and, after taking early retirement from the UK, Charlottesville, Virginia. During this time he took sabbaticals to Cornell University, New York, Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Minnesota, as well as shorter academic visits to Wuhan, Paris, Vancouver, Canterbury, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. Over his career he wrote two text books and authored many mathematical papers including several with Paul Erdős, mostly far beyond the comprehension of non-mathematicians!

As well as being a mathematician and a scientist, James always maintained an evangelical Christian faith. Wherever they were, my parents sought out local believers and became active supporters of the local church. They founded a bible study group when the family lived in Northwood and became very involved with Crusaders when they lived in Radlett. James never found any contradiction between Biblical teaching and a scientific view of the world, and instead embraced science as evidence for God. He was always ready to discuss thorny subjects such as Darwin and evolution with skeptics. He was also very interested in education and was a particular advocate for bright but under privileged children.

Following retirement my parents moved to Sevenoaks. They continued to enjoy travelling, visiting old friends, family and colleagues. James continued to advance the Christian faith at almost any opportunity, making a final challenge to those without faith on his 90th birthday, less than two months before he passed away at Pembury on the Weald Hospice on 22 Jan, 2020. He is survived by his wife,  Maureen, 4 adult children, 17 grandchildren and six greatgrandchildren.