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Michael William Hughes-Clarke, 1931-2008

Michael Hughes-Clarke spent his working life in the oil industry with Shell International yet, paradoxically, he was not really an oilman but rather a scholar working in industry.

In his final year as an undergraduate at University College London he contracted polio that left him with a weak leg that proved troublesome in later life. A planned field-based research project was abandoned in favour of laboratory-based micropalaeontology, and he completed his UCL PhD on Albian ostracods in 1957, following which he joined Shell in The Netherlands.

Over the next 30 years Michael Hughes-Clarke alternated periods in Rijswijk with secondments to Shell operating companies in Indonesia, Iran, Oman and Qatar, working variously as micropalaeontologist, sedimentologist and stratigrapher. Two scientific highlights stand out: pioneering work on modern sedimentation in the Persian Gulf, and the first study of the geology of the Oman Mountains.

Two key publications arose from the Oman work: K W Glennie et al. on The Geology of the Oman Mountains (1974), and Hughes-Clarke on Stratigraphy and Rock Unit nomenclature in the oil-producing area of interior Oman (Journal of Petroleum Geology, 1988). In 1990 he authored a more general book on Oman’s Geological Heritage.

In retirement on Gozo he developed a keen interest in the geology and prehistory of the Maltese Islands, publishing Limestone Isles in a Crystal Sea (2002) and Malta before History (2004), and his last paper (2002) sought geological explanations for the sudden demise of the Maltese Temple Culture at c. 4.5kyr BP.

He is survived by his wife Cynthia (also a UCL Geology graduate), daughter Sarah, and son John (Professor of Ocean Mapping, University of New Brunswick). Michael Hughes-Clarke, 29 September 1931 – 29 December 2008

Alan Lord