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Nicholas Rast, 1927 - 2001

Nicholas Rast died in Lexington, Kentucky, USA, on 28 August 2001, five months after the "Rastfest" that marked his retirement from the Hudnall Chair of Geology, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Kentucky.

Born in Teheran to Nikolai Alexandrovitch of Riga, Latvia and Elizabeth, née Bielgorodsky-Lebieshnska Rast of Samara, Russia, his early education culminated in a diploma in Industrial Chemistry (1947) and first place in the competition for training in the UK (1948). After graduating from University College London in 1952, he taught in the universities of Glasgow and Wales (Aberystwyth) (1954-1959). His PhD in geology (Glasgow, 1956) supervised by Basil King was awarded for work on the Dalradian of the Schichallion Complex, Perthshire, Scotland. Publications that followed related the history of porphyroblast growth to the polyphase tectonic history of the Schichallion rocks and established him as a major player in metamorphic geology. His thinking in this field had been greatly influenced by his scientific mentors, Robert Shackleton, C T Clough, Sir Edward Bailey, as well as Basil King.

Nick's dynamism made a major impact on the teaching and research of the Aberystwyth Department, where he began research on the Snowdon Ordovician acid volcanics. Showing the same attention to detail that had been a feature of his metamorphic work, he recognised their eutaxitic texture and, realising that many were subaerially erupted ignimbrites, appreciated that many of Snowdonia's Ordovician deposits must have originated in shallow water rather than deep. His early work was recognised by the award of the Society's Lyell Fund (1962).

His appointment by Robert Shackleton to the University of Liverpool (1959-71) led to a broadening and maturing of his interests in the nature and causes of orogenesis and the mechanisms of igneous emplacement, while his interest in Dalradian structure and stratigraphy continued, being supported by a large postgraduate group. The Liverpool Geological Society awarded him its silver medal (1964) and he became its President (1966-67). His editorial contributions to international journals began at this time and he began to use his fluent Russian to translate scientific texts. He translated and edited the first comprehensive account of the geology of the USSR (by Nalivkin), and served on the editorial boards of several journals, (e.g. the Journal of Geodynamics). In 1970 he was appointed, for nine months, Royal Society Professor in the Graduate School of Geology at the National University of Mexico.

With the coming of plate-tectonic theory, and appreciating that a North American appointment would enable him to follow the Caledonian rocks of Britain and Ireland across the Atlantic, he accepted the Chairmanship of the Department of Geology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton (1971). The next 29 years saw the publication of numerous, frequently seminal papers such as those on the Variscan Front and the Avalonian Volcanic Arc. Fruitful collaboration with his friend and colleague Jim Skehan began (1976) when they were co-organisers of the first international GSA Penrose Conference which was held in New Brunswick and which focused on the application of plate tectonics to international circum-Atlantic correlation. Recognised as a major contributor to Appalachian/Caledonian geology in particular and to mountain-building processes in general, Nick became Co-ordinator of the International Geodynamics Project on the structure and geophysics of the Appalachian/Caledonian orogenic belt. He was founding Vice President of the International Division of the Geological Society of America, subsequently its President, while also being an active participant in several IGCP projects. From 1979, he held the Hudnall Chair at the University of Kentucky.

His first wife, Audrey, was mother of the late Marie Johnson, and of Nicholas; while his second wife, Diana, herself a geologist, is mother of Elizabeth Morgan, and of Alexander and Andrew.

Nick had a generous, gregarious and impulsive nature; he was a gourmet chef and wine connoisseur, contributing a column on wine to newspapers in Liverpool and Fredericton. He loved to entertain friends at home and in well-chosen restaurants. Whatever captured his interest, he pursued with intensity and enthusiasm.

Tony Harris