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Philip Kearey, 1948-2003

Dr Philip Kearey died suddenly at home on 30 June. He had been until recently Senior Lecturer in Applied Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol.

Phil completed his PhD at the University of Durham in 1973. His subject of study was the subsurface structure of the Lesser Antilles and the Aves Ridge in the Caribbean, and for this he produced maps and synthesized geophysical readings over a wide array of recording instruments. He stayed on at Durham as a Senior Research Assistant for a year, before moving in 1975 to a postdoctoral position at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, where he continued analysis of his Caribbean data and developed new computer programs to transform magnetic to gravity data.

Phil moved to Bristol as Lecturer in Applied Geophysics in 1976, and was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1995. He served as Chief Examinations Officer for nearly twenty years, and was a strong influence in maintaining the best computing facilities in the Department. He taught courses in global geophysics, applied geophysics, and introductory mathematics and computing, and led field trips to France and Spain. Phil loved going in the field, and his students found the days out with magnetometers and gravimeters huge fun and immensely stimulating. Phil supervised a number of PhD students, including young enthusiasts from Libya and Turkey.

Phil’s research work in Bristol extended from his early interest in the crustal structure beneath the eastern Caribbean, to northern Canada and then to southern England. He used his geophysical studies to visualize and understand the structure and tectonic forces that had formed the Earth’s crust in zones that were concealed from view by deposition of later rocks: in his paper in Nature with M D Thomas in 1979, he showed that there had been Andean-style tectonics in the eastern Grenville Province, lying beneath northern Quebec.

Phil will be remembered also for his textbooks, all written while he was in Bristol. His first, An Introduction to Geophysical Exploration, written with Mike Brooks, came out in 1984, and is currently in its third edition (2002). Global Tectonics, written with Fred Vine, first came out in 1990, and is currently in its 2nd edition (1996). He edited the very successful Encyclopedia of the Solid Earth Sciences, published in 1993, and the New Penguin Dictionary of Geology, published in 1994 (paperback, 2001). His textbooks were translated into Russian and Italian, and he was actively working on the third edition of his Global Tectonics when he died.

Phil married Jane in 1974, and they had three daughters, Eleanor, Georgina, and Louisa. Through his life Phil was an avid contract bridge player, and rose to county standard, and he enjoyed playing squash and skating. He was fluent in French and Spanish, skills learned at school and in his research travels.

Mike Benton