School of Geography

Professor Paul Mather OBE 1944-2021

The School of Geography is sad to report the death of Professor Paul Mather on Tuesday 3 August. Paul was born in Bolton in 1944 and attended local schools before going to study at Cambridge University. He came to Nottingham University in 1966, first as a demonstrator to do a PhD on glacial sediments and then, after a year at Manchester University, back as a lecturer in geography. At about this time, Paul became heavily interested in quantitative methods and computer programming, writing routines for multivariate statistical analysis on the now unbelievably cumbersome and limited machines of the day. Image processing was difficult, often involving overlaid characters on line printer output to create density images on paper that then had to be taped together and viewed across a room. Then, in the early 1980s Paul acquired a new-fangled graphics device and Mather’s Image Processing System, or MIPS, was born.

Students of Paul’s Remote Sensing course in the 1980s learnt to manipulate satellite imagery with an early version of MIPS. Those who made a minor mistake that didn’t actually crash the program were rewarded with an ironic quote from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The students learnt fast. MIPS was one of the earliest and most effective programs of its class. At an early conference of the Remote Sensing Society, a commercial software developer was heard to remark that Paul Mather’s software was the only competition that worried him. Typically, Paul chose not to commercialise his work, but gave away the software with his much acclaimed book – Computer Processing of Remotely Sensed Images.

After becoming Professor in 1988, Paul served twice as a much-respected Head of School. He continued to pursue his research and nurtured a formidable number of research students through their PhDs. He also helped to initiate a well-regarded MSc course in Geographical Information Science that ran for over 20 years. Paul was very active in the Remote Sensing Society (RSS), serving as Honorary General Secretary, Chairman and Vice-President. He helped organise a number of conferences, including the well-received Terra series of meetings in the 1990s. He was instrumental in relocating the society offices to Nottingham in 1986 and later helped to instigate its merger with the Photogrammetric Society to form the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society. He was an adviser to the council of the new society and was awarded the Gold Medal Award of the RSS in 1996 for his service to the discipline and the Society. He received an OBE from the Queen in 2002.

Paul is survived by Rosalind, his wife of over 50 years, five children and several grandchildren in whom he took great pride. His main passion outside academia was music and he was a keen member of the University choir for many years. He was a devoted supporter of Bolton Wanderers Football Club. Paul was author of over 200 scholarly articles and books on a wide range of topics in data analysis, remote sensing and GIS. His most cited work is his book - Computer Processing of Remotely-Sensed Images currently in its 4th edition. A new edition co-authored with M. Koch will be published early in 2022.

Posted on Thursday 19th August 2021

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