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Felicity Ann Tabor, 1934-2005

Had Felicity Tabor (née Hudson)’s first interest and subsequent enthusiasm for geology developed late in her teens, her obituary would no doubt now reflect on a distinguished career in this field. It was to the misfortune of our subject that her first serious studies in matters geological commenced only when she was well into her fifties. Her early career as brilliant academic and much loved wife and mother can, therefore, only briefly be told.

Born in Harrow, Middlesex, on 11 October 1934, Felicity attended Harrow County School for Girls. There she proved both an academic high-flyer and keen sportswoman. She left school in 1953 to join a local industrial research organisation as a laboratory assistant. Keen to further both her interest in science and career prospects she launched into part-time degree studies, involving three evenings' and Saturday morning's attendance at Birkbeck College. In 1959, she achieved an outstanding first class Honours Degree in Physics and Mathematics, and was immediately invited to study for a doctorate in X-ray diffraction. Newly wed, with limited finances, the option to continue work as an industrial scientist was ultimately determined by the untimely death of her proposed research supervisor.

Felicity was to devote much of the next phase of her life to her family, supporting and encouraging her children, both of whom are now senior university academics. Fluent in French, many family holidays were taken camping in France, where Felicity’s first geological interests were aroused. Together, with her husband, she subsequently joined the Harrow and Hillingdon Geological Society, the Geologists’Association, and a wide range of University of London extra-mural classes in geology at the Natural History Museum.

I regret that I only became acquainted with Felicity at that time. Not that she ever allowed her natural abilities to be revealed in her behaviour. She was quiet and undemonstrative in class, always polite and charming, a delightful and quietly enthusiastic student. On field excursions, to localities ranging from Iceland to the Aegean, her powers of observation obviously reflected a high level of academic competence. With her husband’s retirement and other responsibilities diminished both decided to consolidate their geological knowledge and they registered for a degree course by part-time evening study at Birkbeck.

Four years later, in 2000, Felicity was awarded a first class BSc Honours Degree in Geology. Felicity won both the undergraduate student awards for her year – The Palaeontological Association prize and the award from the Mineralogical Society. A field incident in Skye exemplifies Felicity’s enthusiasm and dedication to the subject. She tripped and fell onto her face on the first day and was taken to hospital. But with stitches in her scalp and swathed in bandages, she was back a few hours later to make sure nothing was missed! Professor Hilary Downes advises that Felicity was held in high regard by her fellow undergraduates for her ability to explain mathematical and chemical concepts to them clearly and simply, in a friendly and open manner, without making them feel inferior.

Degree completed, Felicity worked by evening study at Birkbeck for a research degree, gaining her MRes (with merit) in a project on the quantification of textures in mantle peridotite xenoliths. This eventually became the subject for her PhD. She had undertaken a great deal of meticulous work when she was taken ill. Felicity died on 15 December 2005. Professor Downes tells me that a lasting record of this work is being prepared as a journal article.

John F Potter