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Douglas Anthony Bassett 1927-2009

Douglas Anthony Bassett (1927–2009) BSc (Geology), PhD (The Silurian rocks of Talerddig, Central Wales) UW. Aberystwyth; FGS 1950 (resigned ~1986); Assistant, then Lecturer in Geology, Glasgow University 1952–9; Keeper, Department of Geology, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1959–77, Museum Director 1977–86 and Honorary Professorial Fellow in Geology, University of Wales, Cardiff, 1977–97.

Bassett was born in Llwynhendy, near Llanelli and went to Llanelli Boys’ Grammar School and then to U. W. Aberystwyth College where he graduated BSc in Geology and also gained a PhD on the stratigraphy and structure of the Silurian rocks of the Talerddig district, Montgomeryshire, under Prof. Alan Wood (Bassett, 1955).  He was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Geology in the University of Glasgow in 1952 and advanced to Lecturer, leaving in 1959 for the Keepership of Geology in the National Museum of Wales and then in 1966, became Director - the first Welsh speaker to hold the post.  He continued to map and work on Lower Palaeozoic rocks in Wales, including the Cambrian (Bassett & Walton, 1960), and Ordovician (Bassett, Whittington & Williams, 1966), the last work being particularly notable and forming part of the basis for Bassett’s contribution (pages 14–39) on the correlation of the Ordovician of Wales in Williams et al. (1972).  However, he diverted into bibliographic work (Bassett, 1961, 1963, 1967) at the expense of primary geological research as Museum and committee duties pressed in.  He retired early in 1985 or 6 due to ill-health.

Bassett’s roles in the National Museum led to him sitting on many national committees and he was a member of the Water Resources Board 1965–73 being Chairman of the Welsh Committee; the Nature Conservancy Council (and Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Wales) 1973–85; Celtic Sea Advisory Committee of the Secretary of State for Wales, 1974–9; Ordnance Survey Review Committee, 1978–9; Founder Member and first Chairman of the Association of Teachers Of Geology, 1967–8; Chairman the Royal Society Committee on the History of Geology, 1972–82; Prince of Wales Committee, 1977–86; Director National Welsh-American Foundation 1980–? (Vice-President 1996–?); Advisory Committee for Wales of the British Council, 1983–? etc. He edited the magazine Nature in Wales 1982–97 and made many contributions to the Welsh Academy’s 2008 Encyclopedia of Wales.

Bassett was made a White-robed Member of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain in 1979 and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres from the Ministry of Culture, Paris in 1983.  He received the Wollaston Fund of the Geological Society in 1985, the 1985 Aberconway Medal of the Institution of Geologists; the Silver Medal of the Czechoslavakian Society for International Relations, 1985; the Ivorite Award of 2008 for his American-Welsh work.

Bassett married Elizabeth Menna Roberts in 1955 and they had three daughters, Sara, Sian and Lynne, before divorcing.  They had six grandchildren.  He died on 8 November 2009.

  • Bassett, D. A. 1955. The Silurian rocks of the Talerddig district, Montgomeryshire. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 111, 239–64.
  • Bassett, D. A. 1958. Geological Excursion Guide to the Glasgow District. Geological Society of Glasgow.
  • Bassett, D. A. & Walton, E. K. 1960. The Hell’s Mouth Grits: Cambrian greywackes in St. Tudwal’s Peninsula, North Wales. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 116, 85–110.
  • Bassett, D. A. 1961. Bibligraphy and Index of Geology and allied sciences for Wales and the Welsh Borders 1897–1958. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 376pp.
  • Bassett, D. A. 1963. Bibligraphy and Index of Geology and allied sciences for Wales and the Welsh Borders 1536–1896. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 246pp.