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John Tarney 1937-2018

dafshProfessor John Tarney died on 31 March 2018, shortly after his 81st birthday. He was educated at Cockermouth Grammar School and read geology at Durham University, subsequently gaining a PhD there in 1961, before moving to Birmingham, where he held a NERC Research Fellowship followed, in 1964, by a lectureship.

John was appointed to the F.W. Bennett Chair in the Department of Geology in Leicester in 1980, a post he held until his retirement in 1999. During his tenure at Leicester he was Head of Department twice: 1980 to 1983, and in 1985, and worked tirelessly to establish the Leicester department as one of the leading departments in the country. He was a well-known and popular figure owing to the numerous University committees and boards he attended; he was in addition Warden of Villiers Hall between 1983 and 1985. He sat on several external committees and working groups, including NERC and the Royal Society, and played an important role in establishing the UK involvement in ocean drilling (DSDP and IPOD).

John’s PhD research concerned the geochemistry of the Lewisian rocks of NW Scotland, an interest that persisted throughout much of his career. He was particularly keen in applying the then new technique of X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry to rock analysis, which led to the geology departments in Birmingham and subsequently Leicester becoming centres of excellence in this methodology. Through the application of XRF to a wide range of rock types and by liaising with isotope geochemists in the UK and overseas, John revolutionized the science of analytical ‘hard-rock’ geochemistry.  This led to the publication of well over 100 journal articles and books, the training of almost 30 research students and post-docs, and the organization of many meetings and conferences. He was the recipient of the Murchison Fund of the Geological Society in 1979.

John enjoyed travel, and his fieldwork took him all over the world: Scotland, Greenland, Norway, China, Colombia, the Caribbean, Brazil, the USA, Kenya, New Zealand, India, Greece and Canada. He was a shipboard scientist on DSDP Leg 36 in 1974 in the Scotia Sea - infamous for its treacherous weather and icebergs, and would frequently regale his colleagues with his adventures.

John was enthusiastic and meticulous about his work, and put a tremendous amount of time and energy into any project with which he was involved. Those who have enjoyed his hospitality will remember how he would stay up long into the night revising and polishing repeated drafts of a paper! He was very kind and thoughtful both to his research students and to the many colleagues who shared his research.

The years after his retirement were marred by ill-health, but John bore his troubles with stoicism and good humour. He loved nothing better than spending time with his family, and going for walks and cycle rides with them. He will be sorely missed by his wife, Mary, their three children (Clare, Michael and Paul), six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild, as well as by his many friends.

By Andy Saunders and Graham Park