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John Hewitt Hull 1934-2014

JHHJohn Hull was born in Manchester on 18 June 1934 and died, in his 80th year, 12 March 2014. It has often been said that ‘geologists and good company, especially for other geologists’. John Hull modified that rule and was good company for all but yes, especially for other geologists!

John attended the University of Birmingham, attracted by the opportunity to study geophysics as part of the geology degree. Leaving University, John took up an appointment at what was then the Geological Survey of Great Britain. He was appointed to the North-East England Field Unit and sent out to map everything from Lower Palaeozoic greywackes to Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic sediments and the glacial deposits of the Quaternary. This work fostered John’s interest in the applied aspects of geology and engagement with those who both wanted and needed to use geological advice, particularly in industrial minerals.

By 1967, the Survey was expanding into the geology beyond our shores on the continental shelf, presenting John with new challenges. In 1971 John came back on to dry land to be officer-in-charge of the Industrial Minerals Assessment Unit in Leeds leading to the development of new forms of geological map, addressing specific issues and the understanding that access to a database of sub-surface geological information was an essential component of a modern and relevant geological Survey.

In 1981, John moved to Scotland to take up the post of District Geologist of the North Lowlands Field Unit, bringing him firmly into the role of scientific management, directing programmes of basic mapping and specific research commissioned by government and other bodies. It also gave him the opportunity to develop his interests in data-banking of geological information with the work of the newly formed Scottish Geological Database section. His time in charge of the North Lowlands Unit was short as he quickly had to assume the role in 1982 of Assistant Director when Innes Lumsden moved to be Deputy Director.

In 1985, John returned to the marine environment as Assistant Director and Programmes Director for Hydrocarbons and Marine Earth Sciences. This was a time of intense activity on the UK Continental Shelf in the quest for oil and gas, but the development of the infrastructure for bringing the hydrocarbons ashore required detailed geological maps of the continental shelf, an area 110% greater than the UK land area. This was a mammoth task and one of fundamental importance to the economic development of the UK.

Under John’s direction the Survey fulfilled this task alongside the other important commissions given it by government in the monitoring of the offshore industry. John accepted the Clough Medal of the Edinburgh Geological Society for the year 1994/95 on behalf of the Survey, in recognition of this contribution to our understanding of off-shore geology. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1994. John remained in this post until his retirement in 1994.

John was a great guy to work with, warm and generous to all his colleagues. He was a Survey man through and through but had a vision of the role of a national Geological Survey in helping to address the fundamental applied issues of how we use the land, the seas and the resources they contain responsibly. We, his colleagues, will miss him greatly.

Stuart Monro