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Rex Tregilgas Prider, 1910-2005

Professor Rex Tregilgas Prider was born on September 22 1910 in Narrogin Western Australia, and died in Perth aged 95 on October 6, 2005. He graduated from the University of Western Australia during the Great Depression when work was difficult to get, and became Assistant Surveyor on the South Kalgurli Goldmine in 1932. He returned to the University in 1934 to become Assistant Lecturer under Professor E de C Clarke, for whom he maintained a lifelong friendship and respect. During 1937-38 he was a Hackett Research Student at Cambridge where gained a PhD for his research on leucite lamproites from the Canning Basin of Western Australia. He succeeded Clarke as Professor, a position he held from 1949-1975.

Much of his research was on Precambrian rocks in the Yilgarn Craton, but he was probably best known internationally for his work on the leucite lamproites of the northern Canning Basin, which he had begun in 1937. His 1960 paper in the Journal of the Geological Society of Australia emphasised the remarkable similarity of the lamproites in chemistry and mode of formation to kimberlites, then the only known igneous host-rocks of diamonds. The paper thus implied the possibility of economic diamond occurrences in the Kimberley region. Some 25 years later, mining of diamonds in lamproite began at the giant Argyle mine.

Rex Prider was a hands-on professor who made a point of lecturing to first-year students and supervising their laboratory classes. He had a remarkable memory for students, and maintained that fieldwork both revealed and formed their character. He ran rigorous and spartan geological field camps for senior students during which they almost invariably lived under canvas. Prider was President of the Royal Society of Western Australia in 1944-45 and 1959-60 and was awarded the Society’s medal in 1970. When Australian geologists formed a national Geological Society, he became inaugural chairman of the Western Australian Division (1952), and later Federal President (1958-59). He was also Federal President of the Gemmological Association of Australia (1967-70). The Prider Medal, a gold medal presented each year to the Honours student showing the greatest aptitude for research, is given in his honour. In addition, the mineral priderite, and the Cretaceous fossil Anomia prideri, are named for him.

Rex Prider married Catherine Esther Walton in 1936 and they had two children, son Rodney and daughter Bobbie. A devoted family man, the last years of his life were saddened by the premature death of Rodney, an outstanding classics scholar, and shortly after in 2000, of Mrs Prider. Late in his life, in 2004, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal of the University of Western Australia. It was presented partly in recognition of the personal help that he and Mrs Prider gave throughout his long career at UWA to enable Asian students to integrate successfully into University life. He retained to the end the respect and friendship of fellow staff members, and of a large group of former students who had come under his influence.

John Glover