Richard Montague was born in California in 1930. From an early age, he enjoyed studying Latin and Greek and also showed a strong aptitude for mathematics. He excelled in his studies at St Mary’s High School and chose to take up an offer at the University of California. There, he studied mathematics, philosophy and Semitic languages, receiving an MA in mathematics in 1953. His talents for mathematics were such that even before he had presented his thesis, he had already jointly authored several research papers. After his PhD he stayed at the University to teach and carry on his ground-breaking research and quickly became well known within the field of mathematical logic.

Friends and colleges describe Richard as a well-liked person. While ready to stand his ground in a discussion, he also had a kind and happy personality.  But Richard was a man living several lives. Keen on music, he played the organ beautifully and would often play at the local church. He also had a keen eye for business and spent a lot of his money wisely on real estate. At one point, he owned a whole block of flats, which he employed his parents to manage and paid them handsomely in return. But Richard was also a gay man and had a large circle of gay friends. He would often be seen in local gay bars, where he picked up guys to take home.

In the 60s, he turned to the subject of universal grammar. Other academics had started to examine the subject even though grammar was considered too arbitrary to apply laws and theories to. His theory suggested natural languages, such as English, and formal languages, such as programming languages, could to some extent be examined using the same mathematical theory. His pioneering work, applying logic to grammar, yielded some unique results and Montague Grammar is still an approach to natural language semantics that is still taught today.

But his work and his life were to be cut short. On a warm evening in March, Richard went out onto the gay scene. There he met a group of men who he got on with well. He invited them back for a drink. However, soon after they arrived back, the private party turned into a violent crime. Richard was found strangled the next day and a neighbour recalled seeing somebody driving off in his car. The murder was never solved, much to the outrage of the local gay community. Although Richard’s work has never been forgotten, there would have been plenty more to come had tragedy not ended his life prematurely.

Natalie has been an LGBT journalist for 12 years and joined the Fyne team in 2001. Her interests outside of work are cycling, running and badminton. She is also studying for a degree in psychology.

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