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Leslie Rowsell Moore, 1912-2003

Prof. Leslie R Moore, Senior Fellow, formerly Sorby Professor and Head of the Department of Geology, University of Sheffield, died 13 November 2003 aged 91.

The son of a miner in the Somerset Coalfield, Leslie grew up in Midsomer Norton. Leslie was interested in the natural sciences and with the aid of a Miner's Welfare Scholarship won a place at the University of Bristol where he read geology and went on to obtain a first class degree. A strong sportsman, he captained the University Football team at Bristol and was later President of the club at Sheffield for many years.

At Bristol where he obtained both his BSc (1934) and PhD (1936) and later a DSc (1948), he came under the guidance of Prof. Arthur Trueman, the influential Carboniferous stratigrapher and coalfield geologist. The contact no doubt influenced the choice of his PhD research, on the structure, stratigraphy and economic geology of the Bristol and Somerset Coalfields. He realised early on the value of the fossil floral and faunal evidence and using these made significant proposals relating to the regional correlation of the Coal Measures

Leslie's first job was in teaching in Suffolk, but he was soon appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in Geology at University of Wales College of Cardiff, where his research was expanded to embrace the South Wales Coalfield. It was during this period that he developed research interests in those areas of palaeobotany that were subsequently to provide a major impetus to the emerging science of palynology. He noted that miospores recovered from the maceration of numerous Coal Measure fructifications displayed a wide range of morphological variations. These, he suggested, represented a series of developmental stages towards maturity. The observation that similar trends could be observed in the fructifications from different plant groups was to have major implications on the emerging schemes of classification for dispersed miospores. The significance of these studies was recognised by the Society with the award of the Lyell Fund (1947). He moved briefly to a more senior position at the University of Glasgow before being appointed to a Readership in the University of Bristol.

In 1949 he became Sorby Professor of Geology in the University of Sheffield, an appointment that was to occupy much of the remainder of his working life. He was charged with the task of developing the science in Sheffield, and his success can be measured by the fact that by the late ‘60s and early ‘70s the Department had become one of the largest in Britain. An excellent teacher, he always taught the major part of first year courses, frequently lecturing to classes of more than 100, arousing interest and enthusiasm from generations of students. Despite the administrative demands of running a large department for more than 28 years, Leslie’s commitment to the science was irrepressible. He sustained a strong interest in coalfield geology in Yorkshire and especially South Wales and Somerset and was called as an expert witness to the Government Enquiry following the Aberfan disaster (1966).

Palaeontology was always an essential part of any Sheffield course and in the 1950s, Leslie Moore appointed Charles Downie, Peter Sylvester-Bradley and Roger Neves to the staff. Together they were responsible for the development of the foundations of the Sheffield department's global reputation in micropalaeontological and palynological research. From their vision, more than 250 postgraduates have gone forward to senior positions in academe and the exploration industry worldwide. Leslie Moore was also significantly involved in the organisation of the geological sciences. In 1968, he accepted a brief from the Officers of the Society to explore the potential for establishing a Specialist Group for Micropalaeontology within the Society. He consulted widely but eventually reported that he believed the answer was for a separate independent group. The British Micropalaeontological Society (now The Micropalaeonotological Society) was born, and he was its first President. His concerns for the teaching of geology at all levels in education also lead him to play a major role in the establishment of the Association of Teachers of Geology (now the Earth Science Teachers’ Association).

Although the demands on his time were heavy, he remained active in research. In the latter part of his Sheffield career he turned his attention to micropalaeobiology and the search for evidence of fungal and bacterial attack on organic matter in sedimentary rocks. Few of these studies were completed before his retirement but significantly he published on the presence of fungal and bacterial structures in the Precambrian Nonesuch Shale (USA).

Following retirement in 1977, Leslie and his wife Peggy continued to live at Curbar in the Derbyshire Peak District from where he kept in touch with many of his former Sheffield students. Sadly Peggy died a few years after his retirement, which hurt Leslie deeply. With the progressive loss of mobility over the years, he decided to move to Birmingham to be closer to his son.

Edwin G. Spinner, Bernard Owens, Patricia Lunn