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Keith Atkinson 1942 – 2017

Head of Camborne School of Mines, who helped bring about its merger with Exeter University.

vxhmkEmeritus Professor Keith Atkinson died from cancer on 2 August 2017 at Treliske Hospital , Truro aged 74. He faced his illness with great courage and his customary humour, emailing friends from his hospital bed with the news that he was emulating Tony Hancock by giving an armful of blood.

Port Talbot

Keith was born and grew up in Port Talbot, where he attended Dyffryn Grammar School. He then spent eight years at Aberystwyth University as undergraduate, postgraduate and finally Research Fellow. So Wales was his launching pad and spiritual home, and this allegiance emerged in his passionate support for the Welsh Rugby team. However Cornwall was Keith’s adopted home, living in the County for nearly 50 years.

Photo: Keith Atkinson, taken at a degree-awarding ceremony at Truro Cathedral for Exeter students graduating from the Tremough Campus (which Keith established as the first Provost of Exeter University in Cornwall).

Appointed Lecturer in Geology at the Camborne School of Mines in 1969, he could teach across a range of geological subjects.  He was equally at home making a presentation to an international conference or to a classroom of primary school children. He always brought tremendous energy to the task.    

Keith’s research and publications were as wide ranging as his teaching. In 1986 he and I co-authored ‘Ore Deposit Geology”. At that time Keith was increasingly involved in administrative duties at the Camborne School of Mines, so his contribution was mainly written during the night. The book had very good reviews but also received the withering wifely rebuke “Book is a four letter word”.          


His research interests were eclectic and included geophysics, slope stability, minerals processing and Tertiary geology. However, the main thrust was based on a research team he and I established in the mid-1980s to investigate different aspects of mine waste in Cornwall. Some aspects of this work led to a paper for which the four authors were awarded silver medals by the Institution of Mining & Metallurgy.

Increasingly Keith’s energies were channeled into administrative duties within the Camborne School of Mines, firstly becoming the Course Director of the newly established Masters degree in Mining Geology. Later he played an important role in the negotiations that led to the merger between the School of Mines and Exeter University. 


Keith was appointed Head of the School of Mines in 1994 and in 1997 became  Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, where he carried out a number of  important roles, including the re-structuring of University departments and the creation of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. This led to a very fruitful period of collaboration with the Ruler of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  In 2002 he was appointed as the first Provost of Exeter University in Cornwall, where he helped to establish its first campus.

A genial, but private and modest man, Keith never boasted about his many achievements.  He was always full of good humour with an endless repertoire of amusing anecdotes. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.

By Richard Edwards

  • Richard Edwards writes: A fund is to be established to commemorate Keith Atkinson’s long association with the Camborne School of Mines. The fund will be used to establish a scholarship for a student studying the Masters in Mining Geology at the School of Mines. Please make cheques payable to ‘Camborne School of Mines Trust’ and send to: The Camborne School of Mines Trust, 14 Trevu Road,Camborne, TR14 7AD. Donations should indicate if they wish to be treated as Gift Aid and include the full address of the Donor if a UK taxpayer.