Biographical bits for
Robert Barrington Leigh (1986  2006)
Obituaries
Posthumous degree
 Robert became a University of Toronto alumnus when U of T awarded him a posthumous undergraduate degree in June 2007. He had already fulfilled the requirements a year early, when he died.
This is mentioned in another Math department newsletter [PDF], which reads:
Robert Barrington Leigh (1986  2006)
who died in August of 2006 at the
age of 20 was one of the most outstanding undergraduate
students we ever had. When he died, he was in his fourth
year, enrolled in the Specialist Programs both in Mathematics and in Physics. Already by his second year he took
graduate courses. He won top awards at the University of
Toronto and in several international mathematics competitions, both at the University and earlier.
Robert Barrington Leigh has now joined the ranks of our
alumni. The University of Toronto awarded him a posthumous degree at the University College convocation last
spring. Robert's father, Dr. John Barrington Leigh, attended
the convocation to receive the award.
Dedications
Publications and writing
 A sample math assignment: Gelfand Pairs
 A physics (but really math!) assignment: Lorentzian Geometry Outside of General Relativity: an Application
to Airline Boarding
 Zigzag, appeared in Mathematics
Competitions 10 (1997) 3843,
reprinted and translated into Hungarian in Abacus 4 (1998) 318320
under the title Cikcakk (with Richard Travis Ng).
 "Minimizing Aroma Loss" [PDF], The College Mathematics Journal, Vol. 30, No. 5. (Nov., 1999), pp. 356358 (with Richard Travis Ng).
 Robert is a contributor of solutions in Andy Liu's
The Alberta High School Math Competitions 19572006: A Canadian Problem Book, Mathematical Association of America, 2009.
 Character values for GL(2,Z/p^{l}Z)
J. Algebra 323 (2010), no. 1, 12881320 (with
Gerald Cliff and Qianlong Wen).
The paper includes a kind dedication:
This work was started in the summer of 2005, when the first author, Robert, was a summer undergraduate student of the second author. Robert died tragically in 2006, at the age of 20. This paper
is dedicated to his memory.
 Hungarian Problem Book IV, Cambridge University Press, 2011 (with Andy Liu).
The foreword by George Berzsenyi begins:
The appearance of the present volume is a truly important event in the world of mathematics. It is a huge step forward for its Hilbert Prize winning author, since he had to overcome the tragedy of the death of his young protégée and coauthor, and had to find the strength to complete the work alone. It is important to those who are involved with the organization of mathematical competitions, since they now have more complete access to the problems of the famous Kürschák Mathematical Competition for the years 19471963, and the solutions of those problems. Moreover, it is important to those who are engaged in the teaching and/or learning of creative mathematical problem solving, since Andy Liu's Hungarian Problem Book IV is a wonderful vehicle for mastering the process of problem solving in the spirit of the late George Pólya, who was also a product of the Hungarian school of mathematics.
The author description for Robert is:
Robert Barrington Leigh (19862006) was one of the very best students in
thirty years of Andy Liu's Saturday Mathematical Activities, Recreations &
Tutorials program. When in Grade 6, he coauthored a paper, with a friend in
Grade 7, on one of the problems in this book. It was first published in Australia,
and then translated and published in Hungary. The two teamed up for
another paper in the MAA's College Mathematics Journal the following year.
Robert won two Bronze Medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad
on his pure talent, without doing extra training. The same approach earned
him seventh to sixteenth place in the Putnam all three times he participated
in the Competition. Tragically, he died before he could enter the Competition
for the fourth time.
Declarations from the search
Robert was a math scholar, sure, but he was also a gentle and kind young man,
a good friend with a very bright future. Here are some words from people in
his various communities, the first two from during the search.

I, Andy Liu, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Alberta, have
known Robert since he was about ten years old. He was already very impressive
at the time, and it is my greatest pleasure to watch him develop into a fine
young man and a great intellect. Of his potential, I can only say that he
will surpass anything I have ever done, and much more. How much more is
beyond what I can judge, but I will say that he will be one of the most
important mathematicians of his time. He has a most pleasant personality,
very polite and absolutely
nonconfrontational. He is a warm and friendly person, extremely kindhearted
and always ready to lend a helping hand. His honesty and integrity, both
general and intellectual, are exemplary. He is very well rounded, with good
athletic abilities and many other talents. He is a very levelheaded and
considerate person. Although the sky is the limit, he can focus on what he
wants to achieve. He is the happiest person I have known.
 Andy Lui Robert's mentor

We are extremely concerned by the disappearance of Robert
Barrington Leigh. It is highly uncharacteristic of his behaviour
to be out of contact with his family, teachers and friends for
even a short period of time.
We know Robert as an exceptional student in the Mathematics Department
at the University of Toronto. He started his studies here three
years ago. We got to know him quickly because he enrolled in our
difficult thirdyear courses already as a firstyear student. But we
were impressed not only by his talent. Robert is an exceptional young
person in every way  always smiling and pleasant, polite, kind and
helpful to his fellow students. He is very wellliked.
Robert has won top awards at the University of Toronto and in several
international mathematics competitions. He will graduate from U of T
this year. We expect him to go on to graduate studies at one of the
world's top universities, and to have a brilliant career.
Edward Bierstone, John Bland, Mike
Lorimer and Catherine Sulem: four of his professors in the Department
of Mathematics, University of Toronto
An EConversation with a Math Olympian
Submitted by Robert Wong
Vernon Barford School
Edmonton, Alberta
Recently I was asked by the Math Council to do a write up about the double
Olympic Medal winner in the 2003 International Math Olympiad and the
International Physics Olympiad. Two thoughts came to mind: Where is Robert
Barrington Leigh? And what kind of questions should I ask him that’s
not already been asked by various news organizations? Firstly, with the help
of Professor Andy Liu, I was able to get a more recent update on where about
is the famous Edmontonian. Robert is now a freshman starting his first year
of study of Mathematics at the University of Toronto. Thus, a facetoface
conversation with him would be difficult. Email it is. Secondly, I thought it
would be best if the questions were asked from a student’s perspective.
After brainstorming with my students and a collaboration with Shauna Boyce,
the questions were set. The following covers our email conversation.
Q: What math topics did you have to work with in the competition?
A: The problems I solved during this year's competition  two out of six 
concerned geometry (the usual: circles, lines, and angles) and number theory
(properties of whole numbers). There was also one algebra question and two
more number theories: The hardest concerned powers of prime numbers.
Significantly, the International Math Olympiad (IMO) considers calculus as
postsecondary material; thus I didn't feel obliged to study it! The problems
chosen for the Olympiad are generally more difficult when tackled with
calculus than without.
Q: How competitive was the Olympiad, and was it stressful?
A: The Olympiads are organized so as to make them as friendly as possible: we
write the contest within a few days of our arrival, then try to concentrate
on enjoying ourselves and making friends for the rest of the event. I
particularly recall playing a card game with members of the Chinese team who
seemed just as relaxed as the Canadians. Understandably though, some of us
were anxious while the questions were being marked and the results posted. In
addition to meeting other students, the International Olympiads are a unique
opportunity to explore a new country and culture. I was particularly
fortunate this year to visit Tokyo, because I do not often travel outside
Canada and certainly have never left the western hemisphere. I think it's
essential to have a sense of the scale and diversity of our planet, and the
abstraction of mathematics might not seem to be the best field to develop
such an understanding; the IMO lets students do both. In general, then, the
Olympiad was not stressful  even the 270minute exams themselves were
calmer than one might expect. If I were panicking, I would make more mistakes
than usual and there would certainly be no room in my thought processes to
discover solutions. Thus the exam is a mixed bag of exploration, insight, and
occasionally frantic writing.
Q: What kind of recognition have you received as a result of the competition?
A: There were articles published about the Olympiads in Edmonton, Calgary,
and Banff newspapers, and I was heard on an Edmonton radio show last spring.
Q: Did you spend much time outside of school working on or studying math
topics?
A: Certainly: I have never been content with learning only what I am being
taught officially  and there are always contests to study for. One useful
tool has been a correspondence program for high school students organized by
Dr. Ed Barbeau at the U of T: every month he sends out a problem set and
marks everyone's solutions. Moreover, over the past few years I have been
invited to numerous math camps, which are, perhaps surprisingly, almost as
much fun as they are instructive. In particular, there's the Alberta summer
camp that is held alternately in Edmonton and Calgary, a corresponding
national camp at the University of Western Ontario, a spring camp at
Waterloo, a January camp for IMO contenders at York, and a training camp for
the IMO itself in July that was held this year in Calgary and Banff. I am
deeply grateful to the professors and university departments involved, and to
the sponsors of each of these camps: ESSO, the Canadian Mathematical Society,
and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences.
Q: What are your plans, careerwise and is math a part of that plan?
A: Most likely math will be my principal focus for decades to come. How I
will manage to implement this focus in a career is not yet certain.
Q: What are you studying now?
A: I am registered for a mathphysics double major (with greater emphasis on
math), but I think I'll also pursue the odd computer science course. Right
now, I'm taking 2ndyear math and physics plus a single first year computer
science course and a sociology seminar intended for first year students.
Q: What were your recent accomplishments in the last three years?
A:
 Canadian Open Math Challenge  2001 first in Alberta
 Alberta High School Math Competition  2003 first in Alberta
 Canadian Math Olympiad  2002 honorable mention, 2003 third
 Leonardo Da Vinci Competition  2002 third
 Canadian Association of Physicists High School Prize Exam  2003 first,
2002 eighth
 Chemical Institute of Canada National High School Exam  2003 third in
Alberta
 [U of T] National Biology Competition  2003 ninth in Alberta
 International Math Olympiad  2002 bronze award in Glasgow (22 points
out of 42; tied 113th132nd of 480 participants), 2003 bronze award in
Tokyo (18 points out of 42; tied 107th123rd place of 457 participants)
 International Physics Olympiad  2003 silver award in Taipei (28.7
points out of 50; 38th place out of 239)
 Member of the threeperson U of T team for the 2003 William Lowell
Putnam competition on 6 December 2003 [a North American math competition
for university students]
Q: How many articles or books have you written? Published?
A: Several years ago, two articles were published with Richard Ng and help
from Prof. Andy Liu at the U of A; one was reprinted in the Journal of the
ATA. I am also in the process of helping Prof. Liu to write a book of
translated problems and solutions from a Hungarian math competition.
Q: What are the names of the articles or books?
A: Zigzag, Minimizing Aroma Loss. Hungarian Problem Book IV
Q: Were your parents good in math?
A: Yes, I would say that interest in math runs in the family. My father was
my first math teacher and the one who could teach me best for many years.
Q: When did you start working on math problems? Age and grade
A: Sadly I don't remember that far back, but in grade 1 (age 6) I was asking
my teacher for enrichment to the math curriculum. In grade 5 I wrote my first
multiplechoice math contest, and in grade 6 joined a math club organized by
Prof. Liu. There I discovered a "longanswer" math contest called the
International Tournament of the Towns, which I enjoyed immensely despite its
being slightly above my level.
Q: How many hours of math do you do in a week in elementary, junior and
senior high?
A: About three  I certainly don't remember in elementary. There are also
times when I'm not expressly working on math, but I'm just thinking about a
certain problem  in the shower or what have you. But naturally, I wished I
had more time for math than was available.
Q: What do you enjoy doing when you have free time? Hobbies?
A: Apart from math, chatting with friends, etc., I enjoy music, in particular
playing the piano, as well as crosscountry skiing and running. Edmonton has
a very supportive Nordic ski club of which I am glad to have been a member
since elementary school. Also, I have a casual interest in computer
programming  my brotherinlaw is a software developer.
Q: What kind of books do you read?
A: Like many people I must confess that I ought to be reading a much greater
variety and volume of books than I do. Currently my reading agenda consists
of math books  recreational and otherwise  and other generally
sciencerelated nonfiction, fiction, and biography.
Q: Who's your mentor in math?
A: Without doubt it's Prof. Liu, an awardwinning mathematics educator
working at the U of A, who in grade 11 even tutored me privately on a weekly
basis. We have been in contact since grade 6 through his math club, and most
recently he was the leader for the 2003 IMO team. Not only has Prof. Liu been
a dedicated tutor in mathematics and personal friend, but he has also
introduced me to many other young mathematicians, and crucially, showed me
how rewarding a career in math can be.
Q: How do you prepare for math tests? Contests?
A: The same way as anyone else: I familiarize myself with the standard
problem solving techniques, and then attempt to solve sample problems. If I
get stuck on a problem, I might move on to the next, or I might look up the
solution in case the same approach can be applied elsewhere. On a contest,
the range of insights needed for different problems is much broader, so that
knowing the solution to a particular problem is less valuable than it might
be on a school test. Seeing the solutions to many sample problems is still
helpful, but solving them myself is key.
Q: What are your educational goals? Career goals?
A: Learn a great deal of math and physics  I have no idea  save the
world...
Q: Do you have any advice for others who want to excel in math?
A: Find others with the same goal; it's more exciting when you challenge each
other to excel. There are so many good math problems on the Internet (or
alternatively, in the library) that I'll never run out of them. The Canadian
Math Society also has some great resources such as Dr. Barbeau's Mathematical
Olympiads Correspondence Program
(http://www.cms.math.ca/Competitions/MOCP/info.html), especially if you need
someone to mark your solutions  this is an important part of training.
As usual, it must be stressed that without practice, speed and creativity in
math diminish over time.
Q: What would you say to people who do not like math or struggles with math?
A: Well, I certainly don't hold it against them: for my own part, while I
perhaps pick up mathematical ideas faster than average there are other
skills, which I find difficult and therefore unpleasant (not least
arithmetic!). On the other hand, mathematics is diverse enough to allow
someone to abhor one branch and appreciate the charm of another. Puzzles
created by Binary Arts Inc. tend to be friendly tools for exercising the
mathematical parts of one's brain without noticing it  for example, Rush
Hour.
Competitions and honours
 Mathematical:
 Bronze Medal winner in the 2002 International Mathematical Olympiad in
Glasgow, as a member of the Canadian National Team.

Bronze Medal winner in the 2003 International Mathematical Olympiad in
Tokyo, as a member of the Canadian Natinal Team. (18 points out of 42; tied 107th123rd place of 457 participants)

Top ten finish and team honourable mention in the 2003 William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition as
a first year undergraduate.
 Top ten finish and team honourable mention in the 2004 William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition as
a second year undergraduate.
 Top sixteen finish and team honourable mention in the 2005 William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition as
a third year undergraduate.
 Invited participant of the Seventh Gathering for Gardner in 2006 at
Atlanta.
 Canadian Open Math Challenge  2001 first in Alberta
 Alberta High School Math Competition  2003 first in Alberta
 Canadian Math Olympiad  2002 honorable mention, 2003 third
 Leonardo Da Vinci Competition  2002 third
 Physics (others?)
 Silver Medal winner in the 2003 International Physics Olympiad in Taipei, as
a member of the Canadian National Team. (28.7
points out of 50; 38th place out of 239)
 Canadian Association of Physicists High School Prize Exam  2003 first,
2002 eighth
 Chemistry
 Chemical Institute of Canada National High School Exam  2003 third in
Alberta
 Biology
 [U of T] National Biology Competition  2003 ninth in Alberta
 C.S. (help?)