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William Antony Swithin (Bill) Sarjeant, 1935 - 2002

W A S (Bill) Sarjeant DSc FRSC was born in Sheffield, England, on July 15 1935, and died of liver cancer on July 8 2002, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

He achieved eminence in his chosen fields of palynology, Earth science history, and trace fossils. Bill took his BSc (1956) and PhD (1959) at the University of Sheffield. After teaching in high school, he took positions at the universities of Keele, Reading and Nottingham (where he established his own research school), and was Visiting Professor at Norman, Oklahoma (1967-68).

He received the first DSc awarded to a geologist at Nottingham in 1972, and then moved to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, remaining Professor there until his death. His PhD thesis, supervised by Charles Downie, began the modern study of Jurassic dinoflagellates and established their stratigraphic significance. Sarjeant extended this work stratigraphically and internationally, making important contributions to the development of dinoflagellate taphonomy, publishing the first textbook on the group in 1974, and extending his studies to other groups of microfossils.

Interest in the history of the Earth sciences developed as Sarjeant re-studied type material and interviewed surviving research pioneers. This led to numerous biographical studies and histories. His remarkable collection of books on Earth science history became the basis of a 10 volume bibliography (1980-96). The collection is now being housed in the University of Alberta.

While at Nottingham, Triassic footprints kindled Sarjeant’s interest in fossil trackways, at that time considered unimportant. Studies of British fossil tracks brought extensive forgotten material to light. Sarjeant then explored the record of North American tracks, pioneering new analytical tools for taxonomic and paleoecological interpretation and working on reptiles, mammals and birds.

Sarjeant also published on numerous other aspects of geology. He taught extensively, supervised more than19 postgraduate students, and travelled to 45 countries. He helped create the Peak District Mines Historical Society, East Midlands Geological Society, and American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists. Sarjeant was the second recipient of the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of Geological Society of London, and was also awarded the Golden Trilobite Award of the Paleontological Society (1995), the History of Geology Division Award, Geological Society of America (1991); Founders' Medal, Society for the History of Natural History (1991). He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1995, and was a fellow or honorary member of numerous other organisations.

Sarjeant was married to Margaret (Peggy) Crowe in 1966. Their family comprises three daughters, Nicola (b. 15 April 1967), Rachel (b. 1 August 1969), and Juliet (b. 4 November 1973), and two grandsons. Outside his profession, Sarjeant was extensively engaged in the folk music, nature and heritage movements, wrote extensively on crime fiction and authored an epic fantasy.

David Spalding