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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Charles Henry Emeleus

(17 November 2017)

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Emeritus Professor Henry Emeleus on November 11th, 2017. Henry joined the department in 1957, retired in 1994 and continued active research until just a few weeks ago. He is a huge loss and will be greatly missed by very many staff and students, past and present. More information on his long and remarkable career can be found below

Henry, from Lisburn in County Antrim, received both his BSc (1952) and MSc (1953) from Queens University, Belfast. Under the supervision of Lawrence (Bill) Wager, Henry studied for his DPhil at Wadham College, University of Oxford between 1953 and 1957. It was during this time that Henry became interested in three major research strands with which he remained engaged up until the last month of his life. First, was his own thesis topic on the Slieve Gullion Ring dyke in south Armagh, which followed up his MSc work on the neighbouring Mourne granites and kick-started his involvement with magmatism of the British Palaeocene Volcanic Province. Second, Henry went into the field with Charley Hughes who was conducting doctoral research on the island of Rum. This trip, and the many, many more to the island that followed, led to Henry becoming recognised as the world’s leading authority on the geology of this fascinating island. And third, Henry accompanied Brian Upton on the latter’s DPhil fieldwork to SW Greenland where they developed a shared interest, and friendship, in alkaline igneous rocks of the Gardar Province. The Greenland Geological Survey, like all who worked with him, thought so highly of Henry’s field-craft that he was subsequently employed for a dozen more field seasons mapping various parts of the island. Henry also undertook mapping and fieldwork in many other locations around the globe, notably in East Africa and India.

Henry joined the University of Durham as a Lecturer in 1957. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1969 and Reader in 1979. Henry was sub-dean for the Faculty of Science (1969-1973), served as Head of Department in Geological Science (1986-1987), and was a member of the Senior Common Room at University College, Durham from 1958 onwards. After his retirement in 1994 Henry remained an exceptionally active researcher and his Emeritus Reader status was revised to Emeritus Professor in 2016. His post-retirement contributions were also honoured by Durham University in 2014 with the Award of its Chancellor’s Medal. In 2016 the Geological Society of London recognised Henry for his 60-years of contributing to “the advancement of the Science of Geology” by awarding him the Prestwich Medal.

Henry mentored many undergraduate and postgraduate students throughout his six decades at Durham, many of whom went on to be leaders in petrology in their own rights. But he is also remembered by all the students and colleagues who encountered him as a kind, decent and modest man who was willing to lend his encyclopaedic knowledge of geology and petrology to anyone. Although he projected a reserved exterior he had an extremely sharp wit which he exercised in the Earth Science’s coffee room on an almost daily basis until within a few weeks of his death. His generosity of spirit and encouraging attitude to everyone will be very affectionately remembered and deeply missed by all those who knew him.

Everyone in the Department of Earth Sciences would like to express our deepest condolences to Henry’s widow, Ruth, and to their children, Katherine, John and Lucy.