Published in the Newsletter of the London Mathematical Society


Professor Kee Yuen Lam and Professor Man Keung Siu write:

Dr Chen did her undergraduate work at the Sun Yat Sen University, Guangzhou, China. She obtained her BSc degree in 1949, having been one of the very few woman graduates in mathematics in China. Later that year she proceeded to King's College, University of London, to do postgraduate work under the supervision of Professor J G Semple in the area of algebraic geometry, subsequently obtaining a PhD degree in 1955. In 1953 she was appointed Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Hong Kong. The department was then headed by the late Professor Yung Chow Wong. She was promoted to a Lectureship in 1960, and served the Department with all her heart until her retirement in 1985.

Many generations of undergraduates at the University learned modern algebra from Doris Chen. To them Doris, as she was fondly called, was a symbol of culture and elegance, and a person full of warmth and kindness. To many female students she was also a role model, being the only woman mathematician on the regular faculty throughout her years of tenure at the University.

Her book Elementary Set Theory, written jointly with her colleague Dr Kam Tim Leung, was published in 1967 by the Hong Kong University Press. Lucid and carefully written, it was for many years a must on the reading list of mathematics undergraduates in Hong Kong as well as pupils in matriculation classes who aspired to enter the Hong Kong University.

In her retirement years Doris lived in England but travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Australia. She devoted a lot of time to theatre and music, especially to Wagnerian Opera. She used to say that Wagner was an acquired taste that she enjoyed tremendously. At her funeral on 18 June 2012, family members requested that the Fischer-Dieskau version of Evening Star in Tannhäuser be played. Friends, relatives and former students will always remember her to be as serene and dignified as this fine piece of music portrays.

Dr Doris Chen is survived by her husband Shou Lum, her two sons William and John, daughter-in-law Lily, and two grandchildren Abigail and Samuel. William, like his mother, is a mathematician.