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Sir Kingsley Charles Dunham, 1910 - 2001

Kingsley Dunham was born on 2 January 1910 in Dorset. Three years later his family moved to Brancepeth near Durham City. Kingsley entered Durham University as a scholar of Hatfield College in 1927 to read chemistry but changed to geology under the influence of the first-year teaching of Arthur Holmes.

After a first class honours degree, he undertook postgraduate study of the vein mineral deposits of the Alston Block under Holmes’s supervision. He visited every prospect and mine, often by Morris two-seater, and this work led to his PhD (1932), followed by a definitive publication in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (1934). This early work, including the suggestion of an underlying granite as source of the mineral zones, formed the basis for much of his best-known research throughout his life.

On leaving Durham, he spent two years in the United States as a Commonwealth Fund Fellow studying under Professor Esper Larsen at Harvard leading to an MS (1933) followed by mapping in the Organ Mountains, New Mexico (SD, 1935). In 1936 Kingsley married Margaret Young, a fellow undergraduate at Durham. Their son Ansel was born in 1938.

Kingsley was appointed Geologist with the Geological Survey of Great Britain in 1935. His first survey assignment was to map Old Red Sandstone for the Monmouth sheet. Later, with Colin Rose, he worked on the haematite deposits of South Cumbria and then spent the war years more generally assessing the mineral potential of Northern England, particularly fluorspar and zinc. He became Chief Petrographer in 1948. An accomplished pianist and organist, he was proud to have played the organ in the Albert Hall at plenary sessions of the 18th International Geological Congress (1948).

In 1950 Kingsley was offered and accepted the Chair of Geology at Durham University in succession to Lawrence Wager. Under his popular leadership, the Department considerably expanded and moved forward, with the introduction of geophysics and engineering geology. A new building was planned and built, and undergraduate and postgraduate numbers increased substantially. Kingsley and Margaret’s generous hospitality to students and colleagues was renowned. He became widely consulted on mineral deposits by Pennine mining companies and also on a worldwide basis.

In 1959 Kingsley was awarded a major DSIR grant to drill into the postulated Weardale granite, and thus to investigate the source of the zoned mineralization of the Alston Block. The granite was proved beneath a Lower Carboniferous succession, but to general surprise it was found to be Lower Devonian in age - pre-dating the mineralization. This unexpected result led to much discussion of the origin of the mineralization and the tectonic influence of granites after emplacement, which still continues today.

Kingsley returned to the Geological Survey as Director in 1967. This was a period of reorganisation and expansion. His first task was to weld together the Geological Survey, the Museum of Practical Geology and the recently incorporated Overseas Geological Surveys into the new Institute of Geological Sciences. Field mapping at home and abroad remained the expanded central task, but geochemistry, geophysics, engineering geology and continental shelf investigations were developed or greatly extended. A new headquarters site was found for the Institute at Keyworth, near Nottingham, but he had retired in 1975 before he could move there from London. Kingsley was knighted in 1972.

Kingsley was successively awarded the Bigsby, Murchison and Wollaston medals of the Society, and was President (1966-68). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1955, was a Royal Medallist (1970), and became Foreign Secretary and Vice-President (1971-76). He was instrumental in setting up a Royal Society scheme for rapid awards of grants for immediate scientific visits to volcanic eruptions and earthquake sites. He was President of the IUGS (1969-72) playing a leading role in setting up the IGCP, becoming its first Chairman (1973-76). A full listing of his many offices and honours can be found in Who’s Who (2000 ed.).

Retirement freed Kingsley to return to Durham and to active geological research. In 1985 he published The Geology of the Northern Pennine Orefield Vol. 2 (Stainmore to Craven) jointly with Albert Wilson, followed in 1990 by the Second Edition of volume one (Tyne to Stainmore). Despite failing eyesight (he became totally blind during the last few years), he continued to write an extensive autobiography and to be active in geological meetings and local activities in connection with Durham Cathedral, Hatfield College, the University and Probus clubs until his death on 5 April 2001. He was predeceased by his son Prof. Ansel Dunham and by his wife Margaret in 1998.

Martin Bott and Tony Johnson