Barry Cooper, who very sadly died on Monday, was a central member of the Leeds logic group since the 1960s. I joined that group as a graduate student in 2001, and since then have had the pleasure to get to know him. He always took an active interest in his younger colleagues, myself included, and was enthusiastic about mathematical outreach. Of all the senior mathematicians at Leeds, I would say Barry was the most vocally supportive of my early efforts in that area, and I remain grateful for his support.
Barry’s research interests were in the field of computability (or more accurately incomputability) and in particular the structure the Turing degrees. Roughly speaking, a set of whole numbers X has a higher Turing degree than another (Y) if a computer with access to X has the power to tell which numbers are and are not in Y. Thus, in a very natural sense, X contains all the information that Y does (and possibly more). It may be that Y can do the same for X, in which case the two sets have the same Turing degree.
This simple idea produces a fascinating and fundamental structure, known to the experts as the upper-semi-lattice of Turing degrees. There are all kinds of weird and wonderful configurations hiding within it: two degrees where neither is higher than the other, individual degrees which are minimal (in that there is nothing below them besides the zero degree of computable sets), two degrees which have no greatest lower bound (this is what makes it a semi-lattice rather than a full lattice), and a great deal else besides. This structure (and assorted close relatives) has been the subject of a huge amount of investigation. Barry has played a leading role in this programme over many years.
Outside research mathematics, Barry was popular, active, and successful in a frankly alarming number of different arenas. He was an excellent and well-liked teacher, and will surely be missed by Leeds undergraduate mathematicians as well as by his colleagues and numerous current and former graduate students.
In sport, he was a keen long-distance runner, with a personal best marathon time of 2hrs 48mins. His most recent outing was the 2010 London marathon. One common interest he and I shared was jazz, with Barry having a particular taste for its wilder and more avante garde varieties. He was a founder of Leeds Jazz, and helped attract numerous top artists to the city, including Art Blakey, Courtney Pine, Paul Motian, and Loose Tubes (to pick 4 examples just from 1986). One regret I have is not going to more gigs with him.
A committed political activist and unapologetic left-winger, Barry was involved in various political campaigns, including the the Chile Solidarity Campaign that was set up following the military coup of 1973.
In recent years, Barry devoted a huge amount of energy to the Alan Turing centenary events of 2012. An utter triumph, this anniversary had an astonishing global impact (and overflowed enormously beyond its allotted twelve months), and made great progress in bringing Turing the long overdue recognition he deserves. One outcome of the year was the book Alan Turing: His Work and Impact, edited by Barry and Jan van Leeuwen, a hefty and definitive volume which scooped several prizes, including the Association of American Publishers’ R.R. Hawkins Award. Another result of the increased publicity was a Royal pardon for Turing in 2013; another was the Imitation Game film of 2014. The success of the whole project was in large part due to Barry’s leadership, and the mathematical and computer science communities surely owe him a large debt of gratitude.
Barry announced just two weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with untreatable cancer, a development he met with a characteristic selflessness and equanimity. He died on Monday, surrounded by his family. Over the course of his life, Barry touched many people in many ways, and just as many will now miss him.