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Mervyn Edward Jones, 1951-2002

Mervyn Jones was born on 17 June 1951. From Poole College, Dorset, he entered the Geology Department at University College London. At the end of his second undergraduate year he was diagnosed as diabetic, which prevented him from completing the normally required individual fieldwork. Notwithstanding this handicap he achieved a good honours degree in 1973.

Mervyn moved to Imperial College to research, under Professor Neville Price, the mechanical behaviour of quartz. While writing up his thesis he taught school and became, briefly, head of Lower School science at a London school. He was awarded his PhD in 1978.

He returned to University College with a NERC Fellowship to work on the strength of rocks, 1978-79. He was appointed Lecturer in Geology at King's College, London, in 1979.

Rationalisation of geology within the University of London saw the running down of geology at King's, and Mervyn returned to University College for the third time in 1985, as Lecturer in Engineering Geophysics. He became Reader in Sedimentary Rock Mechanics in 1989.

Mervyn developed experimental work on the properties and behaviour of sedimentary rocks, then something of a poor relation to experimental work on "hard" rocks, and this led to his being consulted by the Norwegian government in 1987 concerning serious problems of subsidence in North Sea oilfields. For nine months he was seconded to work with the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate on subsidence problems in the Ekofisk, West Ekofisk, Eldfisk and Valhall fields. He returned to UCL early in 1988 but continued to advise the Norwegian government and the UK Department of Energy. His research laboratory now became internationally known and attracted major grants as well as doctoral and post-doctoral students.

Meanwhile he had travelled to Indonesia and Taiwan, where he became interested in the structure of coal-bearing sedimentary basins, the accumulation of hydrocarbons in the basins, and more fundamentally in the evolution of new crust in active tectonic areas. He organised the first Sino-British Geological Conference in 1985.

Notwithstanding his successes, Mervyn had an ambition to run his own geology department and contribute to its intellectual development. In 1995, on the retirement of Professor John Vail, he was appointed professor of geology and head of department at the University of Portsmouth. He set about breathing new life into his department, initiating amalgamation with Physics to form the School of Earth and Environmental Science. His work for the oil industry continued and he was consulted by BP about problems with oilfields in a tectonically active area in Colombia. This brought major research funding to his department, but also occupied Mervyn to the extent that, along with a spell of ill health, he felt obliged to relinquish the headship and become a Research Professor in 1998.

Mervyn's work in geology was underpinned by his all-embracing knowledge. He was a polymath who could see into every aspect of a problem. He died on 30 April 2002, at the height of his career.

Desmond Donovan, David Hughes