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John Alfred Miller, 1935 – 2007

Jack Miller was a formidable innovative scientist. He worked at Windscale during his school holidays, read Chemistry with Geology at Hull, did an MSc in Geophysics at Birmingham and in 1958 won a Shell Research Award to do a PhD in Cambridge on the geochronology of rocks and minerals using the potassium-argon method of radio-isotopic dating. He became a Royal Society Smithson Research Fellow in 1962 and in1964, a Junior Research Fellow at Churchill College. As Assistant Director of Research in the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics, he built a pioneering rock dating laboratory. He was an active supporter of rowing and boxing at Cambridge and was President of the Churchill College Boat Club for over 25 years.

In 1962 he began research collaboration with Frank Fitch of Birkbeck College London. An exceptionally talented group of research assistants and postgraduate students gathered in Cambridge and London around the Fitch-Miller partnership. In 1965 the pair formed FM Consultants Limited, a scientific consultancy that aimed to make British academic expertise more readily available to commercial enterprise. In the early days Jack’s forays into the world of commercial consulting often went against academic traditionalists but he challenged and changed attitudes through sheer strength of character. Certainly this approach did his academic career no harm, he was awarded a ScD in 1969. At Churchill he became a Senior Research Fellow in 1975, Vice-Master in 1978, Director of Studies in Earth Sciences in 1982 and Tutor in 1991. While Vice-Master, he also served as Acting Master in 1993. He became Chairman of Examiners in 1997.

Along the way he spent 11 years as a Consultant in Hydrology in Belgium, became a Council Member of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Fellow of the Geological Society, and Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Jack was author, co-author or editor of over 300 books and papers (many of which appeared in important Geological Society volumes). His work ranged widely - from revisions of the Timescale and technical advances in geochronometry to the dating of earthmovements, fossil man, detrital and diagenetic minerals in sediments and of innumerable individual rocks from slate to gneiss and basalt to granite.

Jack had enormous energy and mental capacity for work and was very much a larger-than-life character. After his recent retirement he was able to spend more time working with Cambridge based R B Hawkins and Associates, a company he co-founded over 20 years ago specialising in the scientific investigation of insured losses, and which now has offices all over the UK. His breadth of intellect was outstanding, as was his huge network of colleagues and friends. Jack has a son, Marcus, born in 1961 of his first marriage to Elizabeth Woodward. He later married Marcia Blore in 1969. A scientist herself, she became his principal research assistant and participated fully in his experimental work in the laboratory, fieldwork in Africa, Iceland and Belgium and his academic life in Cambridge.

Frank Fitch