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Christopher James Banks, 1946-2004

The gap between the commercial oilman and the academic might seem a big one, but Chris Banks bridged it, albeit in a way untypical of both. Chris may have appeared aesthetic, and perhaps he was; but he was also deeply committed to corporate values and had no time for spending company money on theoretically interesting but commercially unsound ideas.

Slight of build and quiet by nature, he came across as almost shy. And yet, he was never slow to interpose himself from the back in his quiet and pithy way if he felt a point should be made and he was ready to challenge views acerbically when he felt they were wrong.

Chris was always going to be a natural scientist and would have probably ended up a biologist if he had not become a geologist instead. A graduate of Oxford and with a masters degree from Imperial College London, he spent the next 10 years learning the oil business, working for Burmah Oil in Australia and Somalia, and for Phillips in the North Sea and Africa. In 1979, he joined BP and it was here that, for the first time, he became immersed in the geology of thrust belts. Starting in the Andes and the Mediterranean, he was seconded to Pakistan in 1982/83 and then transferred to Spain until 1986, where he worked on the Betic Cordillera, finishing there as Acting General Manager.

In 1986, Chris was appointed BP's Head of Structural Geology, a position that took him to Papua New Guinea, Syria, China, the Swiss Jura and many other places. During this time, he taught on internal training programmes, as well as being involved in recruiting new staff and liaising with the academic world. His importance, even to a company of the stature of BP, cannot be over-emphasised. There are many geologists today both in BP and outside who are grateful for the personal help and encouragement he gave them in breaking new ground along their career paths.

In 1989, he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, which put him off work for nearly two years. He overcame this and went back to BP, even returning to leading field teams to the Yemen and the Black Sea. However, he was then hit by Parkinson's Disease which became progressively worse and led him to take early retirement from BP in 1994. At this stage, he became an Honorary Research Fellow at Royal Holloway enabling him to publish six papers on geological subjects ranging from the Black Sea to the Republic of Georgia to the Guadalquivir Basin in southern Spain.
By 2000 his illness was taking over, but he finally succumbed to leukaemia in December 2004. He was lovingly cared for in his last years by his geologist wife, Elly, whom he married in 1973. He was a loving father to Claire, Peter and James. Chris's interests extended beyond geology and - whether photography, pottery, archaeology or the music of Gustav Mahler - he threw himself into everything with an intense and enthusiastic passion.

Chris is sadly missed by his friends and colleagues. A memorial celebration was held in July 2005 at the Wetlands Centre in West London. Here, isolated from all the hubbub of the big city, this oasis of peace seemed to personify so much about him. Only he was missing.

Michael Seymour