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A bright spark

Dennis Curry

Nina Morgan* on geology's ultimate Mr Whitegoods.

Geoscientist 19.1 January 2009

To the proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus, Dennis Curry (1912-2001) was best known as the managing director and later chairman of Curry's, a firm founded by his grandfather in the early 20th Century. Under Dennis Curry's stewardship, Curry's was seen as a successful and familiar high street retailer of domestic electrical goods. But to geologists in the UK, Dennis Curry should be best known as one of the most generous benefactors geology has ever known.

Although business was his profession, geology was his passion. His geological interests were sparked as a small boy when he discovered fossils in the chalk. He went on to study science at Cambridge, and throughout his life devoted as much time as possible to the study of geology. His publications cover topics ranging from the British Lower Tertiary, benthic foraminifera, cephalopods and pteropods to the rocks of the English Channel. On a personal level, stories abound of the kindness and support he offered to other geologists, not to mention the financial support he provided to geological societies. Both the Geologists Association (GA) and the Geological Society of London have much to thank him for.

His gift of Curry's shares form the basis of the GA's Curry Fund, which provides grants to promote a wider public understanding of geology. The results of his share donations to GSL were even more staggering. Dividends from the shares ensured the future of the Library. And proceeds from their eventual sale allowed GSL to set up its publishing house in 1987. As if this were not enough, Curry went on to assign his share of a family trust fund – amounting to nearly £400,000 – to the Geol. Soc.

When the money arrived in 2004, the treasurer found only one word to describe it: Hurrah!

Acknowledgments and references

Sources for this vignette include an obituary of Dennis Curry, by Jake Hancock, published in The Independent, 30 March 2001; and Chapter 9 of Whatever is Under the Earth: The Geological Society of London 1807-2007 by Gordon Herries Davies

If the past is a key to your present interests, take at look at what the Geological Society History of Geology Group (HOGG) has to offer. For more information about and all things historical, and to read the latest HOGG newsletter, visit the HOGG pages at the Geological Society website:

*Nina Morgan is a freelance science writer based near Oxford, UK