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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...


GEO COVER_DEC11JAN12 for web.jpgThis page has been created to facilitate rapid and timely interchange of opinion. Each month (space permitting) a selection of these letters will be published in Geoscientist Online , the colour monthly magazine of the Society Fellowship.

Correspondence strings are listed in the order that they are begun, the most recent string at the top. Within each string, letters are listed with the first letter of the string at the top, and subsequent letters below.

This page contains letters from the current year.  The archive of letters from previous years are accessible by clicking the links to the left.

If you wish to express an opinion, please email the Editor. Letters should be as short as possible, preferably c.300 words long or fewer. You may also write to:

Dr Ted Nield, Editor, Geoscientist, c/o The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG.
  • Please note that letters will be edited for publication. This particularly applies to versions  printed in the magazine.  The Editor reserves the right not to publish letters, at his discretion. Writers should submit their letters electronically to ensure rapid publication. All views expressed below are the responsibility of their authors alone.TN

Mud in our eye 04 February 2015

Received 04 FEBRUARY 2015
Published 04 FEBRUARY 2015
From Stephen Parker

Sir, I would like to congratulate you on the latest Geoscientist, which at last recognises the significance of the main subject of my career!  The lifetime of mud and X-ray diffraction was in fact quite a jolly one, despite the jokes of my colleagues at Reading, and I still believe it to have been a really significant part of geology.

Andrew Parker

Taking the Keeble road to postgraduate funding 03 February 2015

Received 03 FEBRUARY 2015
Published 03 FEBRUARY 2015
From Morris Stevenson

Don KeeblePicture: D.H.L.  Keeble MC TD EurIng BSc(Eng)(London) CEng FICE FIHT MConsE

Donovan (‘Don’) Keeble established an Educational Charity in 1989.  Following a distinguished career as a professional Civil Engineer in the UK and Southern Africa, as well as military service in which he was awarded the Military Cross for action at Dunkirk.  Don had the vision to establish a charity to award ‘scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries or maintenance allowances ...  for the advancement of education of persons who intend to pursue a career in Consulting Geotechnical Engineering.’

Don consulted closely with Dr Mike De Freitas of Imperial College on the need for financial support for students at that time.  They considered the use to which such support would be put, the things that could go wrong, and the means by which such support might be best directed.  Mike Scott, who was the Managing Director of Southern Testing at that time, was also consulted.

Don donated part of his shareholding in Southern Testing (STL) to the Trust, to fund the educational awards.  The Trust is administered by Southern Testing, and I have had the privilege of being one of three Trustees for the last 24 years.  The awards are independent of Southern Testing and are designed for the educational needs of individual postgraduate students.  Don was keen that application for this help should be simple and straightforward.  We have given awards to over 50 geologists and civil engineers, predominately to assist funding for Masters degrees in geotechnical engineering. 

We would be delighted to hear from candidates who have benefited from our awards, with details of their current employment.  We would also be interested to know how they came to hear of the awards, how it helped them at the time, and their career progression.  Links to Social Media are available on Southern Testing’s Website for this use.

Individual awards vary according to funds available (reflecting the financial performance of Southern Testing) along with the needs of successful applicants.

Funding of postgraduate studies has become limited since the Trust was set up in 1989.  Perhaps it is time for other large and small-scale consultants (and those who feel philanthropic) to set up a similar method of funding, not directly related to their organisation, to finance the next generation of consulting engineers and geologists. 

Don felt a very strong and personal need to do this, perhaps as a way of returning to society something he felt he owed.  Educational philanthropy is going to be needed and should be a significant source of future funding in our profession.

Morris Stevenson

Chairman and Managing Director, Don Keeble STL Trust/Southern Testing Laboratories Ltd.

Year of Mud - let's hear it for bentonites! 03 February 2015

Received 03 FEBRUARY 2015
Published 03 FEBRUARY 2015
From Richard Batchelor

apatiteSir, There is mud (assorted clays and clastics) containing lovely animal and plant fossils, then there is mud (clay) produced by the alteration of volcanic glass. Yes, I am talking about bentonites (mostly smectite/illite), which I have worked on for 30 years.

Picture: Apatite crystal from a Silurian bentonite, containing an oval melt inclusion.

These muds also contain fossils, but these are fossil crystals formed in situ in the original melt. Apatite, zircon and sometimes biotite occur as beautifully preserved crystals which also tell a story, albeit a geochemical one.

zirconsCombined with bulk chemical analysis, the fossil crystals help to date the rock, to identify the magmatic environments and to correlate strata across countries, and sometimes across continents.

Let’s hear it for bentonites!

Picture: Two crystals of zircon from an Ordovician bentonite.

Richard A Batchelor

Online publishing - reply to Don Hallett & Desmond Donovan 03 February 2015

Received 03 FEBRUARY 2015
Published 03 FEBRUARY 2015
From Neal Marriott

Sir, Don Hallet’s Soapbox piece (Geoscientist, November 2014) and Desmond Donovan’s letter (Geoscientist, February 2015) raise interesting issues in relation to scholarly publishing. It is quite right to assert that there are factors at play that might distort author and publisher behaviour, and that commercial competition has led to a proliferation of journals, but most publishers (both society and commercial) make genuine efforts to improve the discoverability of the content they publish via a range of search interfaces, and invest heavily in services that add value to authors’ papers. Indeed, since 2007 the version of record for Geological Society publications has been the online copy hosted on the Lyell Collection (, where both PDF and HTML displays are available, and we have invested continually in author and reader functionality. There is a growing number of online titles for which print is no longer offered - though print versions of GSL books and journals do remain available to those who prefer them.

Desmond makes a pertinent suggestion about centrally organised electronic publishing on behalf of the major societies. In fact the Society has contributed its content to just such an aggregation for 10 years now – GeoScienceWorld (, an online-only collection of 45 full text journals and over 1000 ebooks from 28 society publishers, with nearly 1000 subscribing institutions worldwide.

Neal Marriott, Colin North

War Graves - Hopton Wood Limestone (Carboniferous) 03 February 2015

Received 03 FEBRUARY 2015
Published 03 FEBRUARY 2015
From Mark Cope

Sir, Picking up on John Dixon’s letter regarding Portland Stone substitutes used by the War Graves Commission, I am surprised not to hear Hopton Wood Stone being mentioned at all.  Hopton Wood Stone is a Carboniferous Limestone, off-white to buff in colour, and sparsely fossiliferous, which is quarried in the Wirksworth area of Derbyshire. It has been used extensively in the local area on building facades of public buildings, and is still used today as an ornamental stone in modern fireplace surrounds.

I have read it was used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as an alternative to the Jurassic Portland Stone, on account of its remarkable similarity.  With reference to a conference paper by Ian Thomas (2008), Director of the National Stone Centre in Worksworth, its historical use by the CWGC was significant, amounting to over 120,000 headstones by 1939.  The paper also refers to 100-200 headstones per year still being produced for the CWGC at the time of writing.  My understanding is that Hopton Wood Stone was also widely used as an alternative to Portland Limestone in the rebuilding of London after the Blitz.

Mark Cope

  • Thomas, I.A., 2008. Hopton Wood Stone, England’s premier decorative stone. 90-105 in Doyle, P., Hughes, T. & Thomas, I.A. (eds.). England’s stone heritage. Proceedings of conference 2005, English Stone Forum: Folkestone.


God or Gaia required 27 January 2015

Received 27 JANUARY 2015
Published 27 JANUARY 2015
From Rob Gray

Sir, One characteristic of the anthropic principle, not addressed by David Waltham, is that it does not work into the future.  If sentient life is here merely due to the chance of Earth throwing 35 consecutive sixes then there is no guarantee of throwing another. Looking at the risks encountered over the last 70 years - totalitarianism; nuclear proliferation; CFC's and climate change for example - would seem to illustrate the point well.  For me the arguments Waltham presents support the need for God and/or Gaia to explain our present day miracle and to underpin our future.

Rob Gray