Merville O'Neale Campbell

Born: 1925 Died: 1992

place: Barbados

Cambridge University (St. John's College)

PhD Mathematics University of London (1958)
thesis: Classification of Countable Torsion-Free Abelian Groups; Advisor: Kurt Hirsch

Merville O'Neale Campbell (1925-1992) was the first Barbadian to receive a PhD in Mathematics. He attended secondary school at Harrison College in Barbados and received a scholarship to study Mathematics at Cambridge University (St. John's College). On completing his degree he moved to pre-independence Ghana (then the Gold Coast) to teach at the University College located in Legon, a suburb of the capital city Accra. Initially the college was an overseas campus of the University of London, but after Ghana's independence it became an autonomous university, the University of Ghana, Legon. While living in Ghana, Campbell completed his doctoral research in group theory and was awarded a PhD from the University of London in 1958. His thesis research was on the classification of countable torsion-free Abelian groups and was supervised by Dr K. A. Hirsch. The project led to a publication "Countable Torsion-Free Abelian Groups", Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society (3) 10, 1960.

Campbell was a very popular lecturer at Legon and a number of his former students became successful mathematics in their own right, for example, the late Prof. T. Owusu-Ansah, professor and former Head of the Mathematics Department of the the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, and Prof. Akyeampong, professor and former Head of the Mathematics Department of the the University of Ghana, Legon, amongst many others. His former students marvelled at how he would walk into the lecture room with only a tiny scrap of paper on which he had written the briefest of notes and deliver an excellent lecture without any formal detailed notes. In 1964, Campbell returned to the Caribbean to teach at the University of the West Indies, first in Barbados at the University of the West Indies-Cave Hill near the capital city of Bridgetown (1964-1967) and then in Jamaica at the University of the West Indies-Mona, a suburb of Kingston.

When Campbell first returned to Barbados to take up his position at University of West Indies-Cave Hill, he was hailed as a hero by his compatriots. The national newspaper published a front-page article on him, including a photo of him and his wife and young daughter, with the headline "A Son of the Island Returns". On arrival in Barbados, Campbell and his family lived in his mother's house briefly while looking for a place of their own, and many people from his old neighbourhood stopped by to welcome him back. One neighbour, hearing that "Dr. Campbell" had returned, brought her sick child to see him thinking that he was a medical doctor. He had to tell her that he couldn't help her, he was a "doctor of mathematics", not of medicine!

Campbell moved with his wife and 3 children to Jamaica in 1967; he had a successful career there as a very popular professor, teaching undergraduates and supervising at least one graduate student. His former students remembered him for his approachability; a student could run into him in the bookstore or supermarket and ask him a mathematical question and he would stop whatever he was doing to give the student an answer. Campbell remained in Jamaica until his death in 1992. His mathematical legacy includes a large number of former students some of whom are mathematics faculty members in Ghana, the Caribbean and elsewhere, a University of West Indies-Mona Undergraduate Scholarship named in his honour, and a daughter Lucy Campbell, who is an associate professor of applied mathematics at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

M. O. N. Campbell, Countable torsion-free Abelian groups, Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, (3) 10, 1960.

We had incredible help in preparing this page from Dr. Lucy Jean Campbell, Dr. Merville Campbell's daughter.

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