Product has been added to the basket

David Henry Keen, 1947-2006

With the premature death on Easter Day (16 April) of David Keen, we have lost a leading Quaternary geologist. David was born in Hitchin on 26 January 1947, although his family hailed from SE London and he was brought up in Catford, attending Raine's Foundation Grammar School in Stepney (1958-66). He took joint honours in geography and geology at Bedford College (1969), staying on for his PhD in 1975 on the Pleistocene of the English Channel (supervised by Christopher Green). This brought him into contact with workers in France and the Channel Islands; he maintained collaborative links across the channel throughout his career, leading British excursions to France and those of French societies in the other direction.

Keen's academic career began as research fellow in geology at Queen Mary College (1972-75). He then moved to geography at what became Coventry University (he occupied all grades from lecturer to professor, 1975-2002) and ended up in archaeology at Birmingham, where he had been since 2002. His special expertise was as a palaeontologist of the Mollusca. Our understanding of the Quaternary evolved considerably during the course of that career. David was one of several who, from the late 1970s onwards, promoted an interpretation in which much greater complexity of climatic change was envisaged, with five glacial-interglacial cycles in the last half million years. This became quite a controversy, with Keen always on the side of innovation - based on the molluscs that he painstakingly washed from various Quaternary sediments. Happily, he lived to see his views vindicated. As his career developed, he worked in North America and China, in the latter case studying the snails to be found in the huge thicknesses of Chinese loess. His former students tell of someone who always had time to give advice and encouragement - something he generously extended to colleagues as well.

When the small but influential Quaternary group at Coventry was disbanded as the new century began, David found himself an important new role as Director of the 'National Ice Age Network', overseen by English Heritage and funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. This coincided with his new position at Birmingham, where he had made a notable impact before his tenure was so abruptly curtailed. His contribution to the subject includes periods as Secretary (1986-1990) and President (2002-2005) of the Quaternary Research Association and an extraordinarily long period as Editor (1991-2002) of the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association (he received the Foulerton Award from the GA in 2003). Keen was European Editor of Quaternary Science Reviews (from 2002) and also chaired the NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory Steering Committee (1999-2003).

He leaves a legacy of over a hundred publications, including half a dozen authored/edited books and more than sixty articles in major journals, with more of both to appear posthumously. He co-authored the SW England and (forthcoming) East Anglia/Midlands GCR volumes, the latter to be published in 2007. His large collection of mollusc specimens will find its way to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. He leaves Susan, his wife of 35 years, his son Edmund, daughter Rosalind, as well as his father, brother and sister.

David Bridgland