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George Richard Orme 1931 - 2012


Carbonate sedimentologist who transferred his interest from Carboniferous Waulsortian mounds in Derbyshire to modern reefs in the Bahamas and Australia

Richard Orme was a student of the Sheffield University Geology Department, graduating with Honours in 1955. Richard was both quiet and studious, but also had a good sense of humour (the Goon Show was his particular favourite) coupled with a natural flair for organisation which he put to good use during his time as President of the student Geological Society. His attention to detail also showed when he won the Fearnside mapping prize for his undergraduate field project. Born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire on 19 May 1931, Richard passed away peacefully on 16 January 2012 in Brisbane, Australia and leaves a widow, Awen.

Richard Orme’s career in carbonate sedimentology followed his doctorate research On the stratigraphy and petrology of the normal and reef facies of the Avonian limestone, Derbyshire in the late 1950s under the guidance of Professor Leslie Moore, then Head of Geology at Sheffield University. For this research Richard received his PhD in 1960. Sheffield’s local Carboniferous geology supported an active research centre at the University, and the excellent outcrops and large commercial quarries of the Peak District provided Richard with his training for a career in sedimentology. His research on limestones was further developed through a year’s assignment to the Geology Department of Aberystwyth under Professor Wood, where he met his future wife Awen.

Having studied fossil reefs in his early research, the move to study recent reefs was a logical next step, facilitated through a scholarship to Columbia University, New York (1960-62) where, under the tutorage of Norman Newell and John Imbrie he studied the modern reefs of Bimini Island in the Bahamas. A short return to Sheffield followed when in 1962 Richard was offered a NATO scholarship to work in the Sheffield Geology Department. The offer of an Assistant Lectureship at the start of the 1963 academic year provided the security for Richard and Awen to marry, and they remained in Sheffield until January 1967 when Richard took up an appointment as Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geology and Mineralogy in the University of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, in which department he rose to become Associate Professor and Head of Department where he remained until his retirement in 1996.

Through his knowledge of reefs, Richard became a member of the Great Barrier Reef Committee concerned with the running of Heron Island. He also joined Rhodes Fairbridge on an expedition to the reefs off Eastern New Guinea and also took part in a Japanese submarine dive off the Great Barrier Reef. His main interests, however, were with the Northern Great Barrier Reef Province [North of Corktown in the Lloyd Bay area].
Richard once invited me over to Brisbane to sample his cellar of French wines; sadly I was never able to take up his offer.

Compiled by Ray Bate with much help from Awen Orme