The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

Professor  James Gourlay Clunie (1926 - 2013)

James Clunie was known as Jim to his friends and colleagues. As a child he suffered from an attack of polio which affected his health for the rest of his life. He attended Madras College in St Andrews but these were difficult years since, when he was 13 years old, World War II began. St Andrews was not badly affected by bombing raids, despite being close to the air base at Leuchars. However, studies at school were made considerably more difficult due to the war. After the war ended, the headmaster wrote in 1947:-

"During the war years we had to work in trying conditions - black-out restrictions, shorter school days, potato holidays, overcrowding etc. but we have, I think, fully maintained the high standards of the school."

One of the reasons that the headmaster was able to say that they had maintained their high standards was the fact that several of the former pupils, including Clunie, were by this time being highly successful at university.

Clunie left Madras College in 1945 having been awarded the Sir William Robertson Medal as Dux in Science and the Tullis Medal as Dux in Mathematics. In the autumn of 1945 he matriculated at the University of St Andrews where he studied mathematics, applied mathematics and physics. Clunie graduated with a First Class Honours B.Sc. in Mathematics in 1949 and for his outstanding performance he was awarded the Carstairs Prize. In his final two honours years he had studied the five compulsory topics, Geometry, Algebra, Analysis, Statics, and Dynamics. There were also five optional courses on offer from which he had to choose two. Clunie chose the optional courses Statistics and Special Functions.

After graduating, Clunie went to Aberdeen to undertake research at the University of Aberdeen. He was awarded his Ph.D. by the University of Aberdeen in 1952 for his thesis On Certain Topics Concerning the External Behaviour of Functions.

In his PhD thesis Jim developed what quickly became the 'modern' approach to the subject of Wiman-Valiron theory, published in two papers in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society.

The two papers referred to in this quote are The determination of an integral function of finite order by its Taylor series (1953) and On the determination of an integral function from its Taylor series (1955).

These two papers were certainly not the only ones he published over these years. Other papers are: An extension of quasi-monotone series (1953); On Bose-Einstein functions (1954); Univalent regions of integral functions (1954); The asymptotic paths of integral functions of infinite order (1955); On a theorem of Collingwood and Valiron (1955); The asymptotic behaviour of integral functions (1955); Note on integral functions of infinite order (1955); Note on a theorem of Parthasarathy (1955); The maximum modulus of an integral function of an integral function (1955); and Series of positive terms (1955).

After the award of his doctorate from the University of Aberdeen, Clunie was appointed as a lecturer in mathematics at the University College of North Staffordshire, which was in Keele, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, and became Keele University in 1961. He married Nancy Tuff (born 22 October 1922) at Newcastle-under-Lyme at the beginning of 1955. Their daughter Fiona was born on 25 October 1955.

Clunie did not remain at the University College of North Staffordshire until it became Keele University for, in 1956, he moved to London. Walter Hayman was appointed as the first Professor of Pure Mathematics at Imperial College, London, in 1956 and immediately began to build a major research centre for complex analysis. Clunie was one of Hayman's first appointments to Imperial College. At Imperial College he had an exceptionally productive research career.

At Imperial College, Jim's complex analysis research flourished and he wrote many hugely influential papers, and supervised seven research students. His papers included one on the coefficients of univalent functions, published in Annals of Mathematics, that led to the introduction of the so-called 'Clunie constant'; another in the Journal of the London Mathematical Society that contains a result now known as 'Clunie's lemma'; and a joint paper in Crelle's Journal with Professor J Milne Anderson and Professor Christian Pommerenke that established the theory of so-called Bloch functions.

His papers included:

  • On schlicht functions (1959) 

  • On meromorphic schlicht functions (1959)

  • On the coefficients of univalent functions (1974)

  • On integral and meromorphic functions (1962)

  • On Bloch functions and normal functions (1974)

Clunie spent the academic year 1959-60 in the United States.

At the age of 39, Clunie was promoted to a professorship at Imperial College in 1964.

Jim's love of beer is legendary. At a mathematics meeting at the University of Durham in the 1980s, the bursar remarked that the consumption of alcohol was extremely high. He could only recall one occasion when the consumption was even higher, and that was a conference organized by Professor Clunie in 1979.
In 1981 he reached the age of 55 which made retirement possible. Because his health problems made lecturing so difficult, he took the opportunity to retire from his chair at Imperial College but he had no intention of giving up mathematical research. He took up a research fellowship at the Open University in Milton Keynes where he worked until 1986 when he accepted a research fellowship at York University.
Jim was regarded extremely warmly by many friends, and widely respected as a wise and knowledgeable colleague with a fine sense of humour. Indeed, his general knowledge was extraordinary, and his ability to complete 'The Times' crossword before breakfast at conferences legendary.

Clunie died peacefully in Lamel Beeches Nursing Home on 5 March 2013, aged 86 years.

Further information can be found here