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Dennis Wood, 1934 - 2001

Dennis Wood was a well-known and highly respected geologist from North Wales, and his death leaves a huge gap in the geological world. He died doing what he did best - enthusing local people in Menai Bridge, where they are planning to set up a museum. Dennis was speaking on the history of the Menai Strait.

It was a subject on which he was well qualified to speak, being a descendant of the great 19th Century engineers George and Robert Stevenson. The latter built the Britannia Bridge, which spans the Menai Strait close to Dennis's house at Treborth Uchaf. It was characteristic of his generosity that he was planning to lend parts of his antique map collection to the new museum.

Dennis Wood's academic qualifications were impeccable. At Liverpool University he was one of Robert Shackleton's (q.v.) star students and graduated with first class honours before joining his friend as a lecturer at Leeds. In 1967 he moved to the University of Illinois and in 1977 was promoted to full Professor. In 1980 he returned to Britain as Chief Scientist with Robertson Research and remained there until 1990. From 1987 to 1993 he was a member of the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), becoming Chairman of its Earth Science Committee.

Throughout this time, and until his death, he worked in the USA and acted as consultant to many slate companies as far afield as North America and China. This reflected his PhD topic (strain relationships in slates), which established him as a world authority on slate and slate-related topics. Still working in industry, he accepted an Honorary Chair at the University of Wales, taught for a period at Aberystwyth and lectured at Bangor right up to his death. Of his many talents, arguably the greatest was as a teacher. He loved working with students, especially in the field, and was unstinting with his time and energy.

In the last few years, Dennis was extensively involved in geological conservation, becoming Chairman of the Gwynedd and Môn RIGS Group, where he exercised his many talents in conserving, recording and developing sites for use by the general public, researchers and schools. He initiated geological trail leaflets for Bangor and a Precambrian field study booklet for Anglesey. This will be completed by his co-workers and dedicated to his memory. Such was Dennis's ability to convey enthusiasm for his subject, that he was in huge demand with academic audiences and amateur groups alike. On one RIGS trip to the Menai Strait, he succeeded in enthralling a three year-old, hopefully nurturing a life-long interest in that child.

Of course there was more to Dennis than 'his chosen subject'. His rugby trips and passion for cricket were the source of many an anecdote. He also took great pride in his large garden and, in recent years, developed a love of genealogy and historical research. He was fascinated by the Vincent family, former occupants of his house for over 70 years. His researches, in the company of a friend, had resulted in material for four volumes, the first of which had just been completed. Unbeknown to many, Dennis was also an extremely accomplished organist and a pillar of the Dialectical Society.

In recognition of Dennis's achievements, the Welsh RIGS movement is planning to place a plaque at his favourite field site, Rhoscolyn, in Anglesey. Indeed, whenever a field excursion was mooted, Dennis always said, "let's do Rhoscolyn", and it was with great difficulty that we were able to steer him towards some other site. His warmth, sense of humour and generosity of spirit will be sorely missed.

Contributions are being sought to cover the cost of erecting a permanent memorial to Dennis at Rhoscolyn, and to help complete his other projects. Donations should be made payable to the Association of Welsh RIGS Groups (AWRG) and sent to: Mrs M G Webb, AWRG Treasurer, 23 Trem Arfon, LLANRWST LL26 0BP.

Margaret Wood & Stewart Campbell

Alex Maltman writes: Dennis Wood's professional geological career straddled academia and industry. While a lecturer at Leeds his research ranged from Dalradian pillow lavas to the Archaean cratons of Africa, where Robert Shackleton imbued Dennis with a lasting fascination for continental tectonics. At Illinois, Dennis joined forces with Fred Donath, whose laboratory-based rigour perfectly complemented Dennis’s enthusiasm and flair in the field. Together with Dennis's eloquent classroom lectures and epic field courses, especially those roving through the British Caledonides each summer, all this provided a heady cocktail that inspired a generation of Illinois students. Many now occupy senior positions around the world - in commerce and industry as well as in geological academia.

At Robertson's, Dennis assembled almost from nothing a versatile team of structural geologists, valued by major international businesses for their expertise in oil, gas, and minerals, especially in the Middle East and Africa. At the same time, Dennis's manpower training projects involving third-world countries enabled him to continue teaching, thus stimulating students even more widely.