West, Trevor (1938–2012), mathematician, politician and sportsman, was born on 8 May 1938 in Cork, the eldest of four sons of Timothy Roberts West, headmaster of Midleton College, Co. Cork, and Dorothy Trevor West (née McNeill), of Charleston, Ballinacurra, Co. Cork, who was CEO of the John H. Bennett & Co malting company. Christened Timothy Trevor, he was known as Trevor throughout his adult and public life. He attended Midleton College (1946–54) and the High School, Dublin (1954–6), before entering TCD as a mathematics student (1956–60) and proceeding to doctoral studies in St John's College, Cambridge (1960–3), supervised by Dr Frank Smithies.
After a very successful initial traditional academic career at Glasgow University (1963–5) and the University of California at Los Angeles (1965–6), West was appointed a lecturer in mathematics by his alma mater TCD in 1966. He was elected a fellow of the college in 1970 and promoted to associate professorship in 1977. While he continued his teaching and research in mathematics very actively until retirement in 2004, he diversified into politics very soon after his TCD appointment. He strove continually to increase the profile of Irish mathematical research from his initial appointment in 1966, making his presence felt in a number of significant ways apart from his own international collaborations and connections. He was instrumental in starting a series of mathematical symposia held in Ireland, overcoming a turf war for control by having himself appointed as secretary of a newly created sub-committee of the RIA. It was perhaps typical of West's modus operandi that he saw that it was not always necessary to appear to be the boss. The first symposium was not on a topic close to his interests in functional analysis, but there were a number of very successful ones that followed, where his star international contacts from the USA, the UK and Europe were very prominently involved. This activity provided a way into the RIA, to which West was elected a member in 1970, and led him to launch a campaign to change dramatically the mathematical publication of the RIA. It took a while, but eventually was done to his satisfaction. His mathematical work is more comprehensively treated in an obituary by R. M. Timoney in the Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society (2013) and an article by Robin E. Harte et al. in a special issue of the Mathematical Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (2013). We refer to these sources for a full list of his published works, including his mathematical papers and several monographs, international conferences he organised, his many international mathematical contacts and collaborators, and for an account of the significance of his work including the seminal 'West decomposition' which made his name in mathematics.
At the national level, he was election agent to Mary Robinson for her election to Seanad Éireann in 1969 for the University of Dublin constituency. He also applied his knowledge to his own campaign at the by-election in the same constituency caused in 1970 by the death of Owen Sheehy-Skeffington (qv) and was elected to Seanad Éireann on 19 November 1970. He served continuously in the seanad until 1981 and for much of 1982, always as an independent. His motivation in entering politics at that level was to a large extent inspired by the life of Sir Horace Plunkett (qv), known for setting up the Irish co-operative movement in 1889, and West's deep interest in Plunkett motivated him to write Horace Plunkett, co-operation and politics – an Irish biography (1986). West also aligned himself with the progressive ideas of other senators elected by Dublin University and in particular took a profound interest in the Northern Ireland question while a senator and even thereafter. As a member of the Church of Ireland he ensured the views of religious minorities were made known, since the views of the Roman catholic hierarchy were made very clear to the politicians. The extent of his activities was so wide-ranging that few, if any, were aware of them all. Most aspects of his varied activities are well treated in the collection Trevor West, the bold collegian (2016). In a review of that book Owen Dawson in the Irish Times (4 March 2017) begins 'By all accounts, or at least by the twenty-four contributors, mainly former Trinity College lecturers and high-profile alumni, Trevor West was an exceptional man.'
West was not exceptional at any sport, though he played several with great enthusiasm, including cricket. He was, though, a sports fanatic, especially at TCD, regarding it as an important ingredient of the politics of life. A soccer match he organised in 1978 between members of the oireachtas and a team of Westminster MPs was indicative of this, as was his writing of The bold collegians: the development of sport in Trinity College, Dublin (1991) and his editing of Dublin University Football Club, 1854–2005: 150 years of Trinity rugby (2003). The personality he deployed at his mathematical conferences, where he was always sure to lay on entertainment, was also employed to keep order in the sporting clubs and societies in TCD and to encourage those he saw as stars to shine at sport. It was also used with his students in TCD, especially the large classes of engineers he taught for many years. In particular, West served as chairman of the Dublin University Central Athletic Club (1976–2009). Here for once, he had the top job and there were few who did not know! There were many sporting projects that he shepherded through the college, from modestly expensive ones like resurfacing tennis courts to the most major of all, the new sports centre including a swimming pool completed in 2007. His activities also included cooperation with other universities in Ireland and abroad, where again his political acumen was important. But, even the chairperson of DUCAC needs serious allies to make big things happen and Trevor took a full part in the life of the TCD campus over his whole career. His profile as a senator helped, but he was often a member of the college board and on friendly terms with almost all of the important college officers. For fuller details refer to the contribution by Cyril Smyth in Trevor West, The bold collegian.
West maintained rooms in TCD for his whole career until he died, and lived-in as a student too. He dined frequently in college. But family traditions were also very important to him, as manifest in his continued involvement with Midleton College (and its board), his writing of Malting the barley: John H. Bennett, the man and his firm (2006), and his maintenance of Charleston house the family home. For many years, he would spend part of almost every weekend in Ballinacurra while his mother lived there and later, dealing with affairs in Midleton and Cork. He would find time for mathematical colleagues at UCC before taking the train back to Dublin on a Monday night, and might have spent the previous Saturday attending a rugby international along with an associated intervarsity fixture. Onwards to a week of lectures and the seanad, to his research, and to producing his extensive handwritten correspondence on many topics and the affairs of TCD. Always a busy man, but always friendly when you met him.
West married Maura Lee, a radio producer at RTÉ, on 31 August 1995 and acquired a stepson (Ian Mulvihill). Marriage seemed not to change his life dramatically. In addition to residing in his rooms and Charleston, he stayed in Maura's Dublin residence at times, much more so in his last years, but she also embraced the Charleston estate and became a constant support to him. Trevor West died on 30 October 2012 in Cork, after a number of years of declining health.