Michael Francis Bott (1940 - 2023)

Michael Francis Bott, known as Frank, was born in 1940.  He was a mathematician, a computer scientist, a polymath, a linguist, a family man, a generous host, and a pillar of community life in Aberystwyth.

Frank spent his early life in Bilston, near Wolverhampton. His abilities were obvious at an early age. He entered Wolverhampton Grammar School at the young age of 10, and was only 16 when he won a scholarship to study Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.  Frank thrived on life at Cambridge.  He enjoyed mathematics but attended too many interesting lectures on other subjects. 

Having worked for a while at a school where most of the teachers were from Wales, Frank decided to learn Welsh, so he joined the university Welsh Society.  There he met Mary Williams from Llanelli, a scientist working for Pfizers in Cambridge.  They married in August 1983 in Trinity College Chapel.  Frank and Mary were happily married for almost 60 years.

After graduating, Frank worked for six years in the University of Cambridge, involved in both computing and language processing. Then he spent 9 years at SPL, one of the early software consultancies.  He managed their office in Milan and later their Nottingham office.

Frank spent two years as a Visiting Professor at the University of Missouri in St Louis, before joining the Aberystwyth Computer Science Department in 1979. 

When Frank joined, Computer Science was a small teaching department.  The next two decades saw the department grow and change, forming the base for the department it is today, strong in research as well as teaching, now one of the leading departments in the university.  Frank was the major force in this development.  He was head of department for all of the 1990s.

The department had a very beneficial relationship with SPL for over 20 years; students and staff spent periods gaining experience at SPL; there were major collaborative research projects. 

The department has always seen Computer Science as a vocational subject and emphasised the importance of professional issues.  Frank was closely involved in the British Computer Society and his books on professional issues are used all over the world.

Frank was a remarkable polymath.  The breadth and depth of his knowledge never failed to amaze, and his memory was incredible. You could talk to him about anything and find he knew all about it.  History, geography, trains, mountains, politics, the health service and much more.  He often gave talks about topics he had found interesting – how many computer scientists would give a lecture on the history of the Christmas carol? 

Frank had a life-long interest in languages and all things linguistic. He was fluent in many languages.  He was always keen to discuss points of grammar and idiom and relationships between the various Romance languages.  He did a Latin crossword every week, even in hospital.  Frank loved speaking Italian – complete with the hand-signals, even on the phone!  He was a regular contributor to the Aber Linguistics Forum which the European Languages Department established.

He read novels and poetry in many languages and took great pleasure in translating the words of songs for concerts of both Musicfest and Music Club.

Frank’s knowledge of music was immense.  It gave him great pleasure and he contributed mightily to musical activity in Aberystwyth.  Frank was the leading force and mainstay of the Aberystwyth Music Club for over 30 years.  He was a tireless member of the Musicfest Board.  His extensive concert programme notes, for the club, Musicfest, the Philomusica of Aberystwyth and the Choral Society, were widely admired.

Frank was involved with the Aberystwyth community in many other ways.  Groups like the Civic Society and the 30 Club benefited from his contributions and wise advice.

Frank and Mary were generous hosts, often for large groups of students as well as friends.  Visiting musicians would often stay with them.  

Frank was a wonderful man, who will be fondly remembered by his many friends, students and colleagues.