Professor Alex Balfour
Honorary Doctorate of the University (Hon. DUniv)
Graduation Ceremony: Wednesday 21 June, 2017
Alex was born into a working class Edinburgh family. As a teenager he attended Portobello High School and made little academic impact until experiencing a "Pauline conversion" at the age of 15, when, almost overnight, the beauty and logical basis of mathematics began to be clear to him. This realisation shaped the remainder of his school years, indeed his life, and four years at Edinburgh University followed reading Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
After graduation and teacher training, Alex taught mathematics for two years at George Heriot's School and Daniel Stewart's College before joining the Department of Mathematics at Heriot-Watt in 1960, where he developed his interest in numerical analysis and computer programming.
Following the granting of a Royal Charter to Heriot-Watt in 1966, Alex played a major role in the definition and implementation of an undergraduate degree course in Computer Science, the first of its kind in Scotland. At the same time, he was also responsible for the university-wide computing service for staff and students and for the creation of a separate group providing technical computing and consultancy services to industry and commerce.In 1979, Alex joined the Europe-Africa Division of the Burroughs Corporation (now Unisys Corporation). Over the next 16 years, he held various divisional and corporate positions in the company, principally concerned with Unisys mainframes, database systems, the Unisys Architecture and business enterprise customer liaison.
After taking early retirement from Unisys in 1995, Alex worked on a part-time basis for the Unisys User's Association in Europe, with key roles in project management and conference planning.
Alex was a keen tennis player for many years and represented two counties in inter-county matches. His interests included puzzle solving and writing computer code. One of his freeware offerings, Calendar Magic, was based on a lifelong fascination with calendars, dates and time.