Herbert Le May qualified as Master of Arts (MA, 1911) and Bachelor of Science (BSc, 1912) at the University of Glasgow. Soon after completing his degree he was appointed as the first and only lecturer in applied mathematics at the South African School of Mines and Technology (from 1921 the University of the Witwatersrand) in Johannesburg. He was promoted to professor in 1923 and served as head of the department of applied mathematics. Though he was a good administrator he had little interest in research and has been described as a rather unremarkable person (Murray, 1982). From 1931 to his retirement from the university in 1951 he was a member of the university council and in 1949 acted as principal. The Herbert Le May prize, awarded to the best graduate in applied mathematics, was later instituted by the university.
During the early nineteen-thirties Le May was a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving on its council for 1932/3.