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John Wykeham Barnes, 1921-2007

John Barnes was born in Liverpool on 13 February 1921, and attended preparatory and grammar schools in the Wirral. He started a mining course at Wigan Mining College and qualified for enrolment for an external London BSc before war intervened.

In 1938 John joined the Territorial Army, was mobilised in 1939 and in 1941 sent to Greece to destroy bridges to slow the German advance. Cut off from his unit, he trekked across mountains for three days to the coast and was picked up by a ship bound for Crete that came under air attack; concerted rifle fire brought the bomber down, but the ship was damaged and diverted to Alexandria.

There, John joined the 8th Army and spent his 21st birthday during the siege of Tobruk. Later, at El Alamein, he remained on minefield duty long after being taken ill, until finally he collapsed. He was invalided out to Jerusalem where rheumatic fever was diagnosed; there followed six months’ recuperation in an orange grove near Bethlehem. The only long-term effect was a life-long aversion to oranges.

He rejoined the North African campaign in Tunisia and then progressed to Italy. North of Naples John was involved in an incident from which he was clearly lucky to have escaped with his life. All that he could recall was coming to with a broken arm and head injuries and no recollection of the previous two weeks.

Back home in 1946 he entered the Royal School of Mines. On graduating with 1st class honours in 1949 he joined the Geological Survey of Uganda. There, in 1951 John registered for an external London PhD under the supervision of H H Read, gaining it in 1956. He had married Mary Fleet, who followed him out to Uganda in 1951 where their four children, Richard, Duncan, Jennifer and Matthew, were born. Successive promotions brought John the Deputy Directorship of the Geological Survey and on Ugandan independence in 1962 John was offered the Directorship, but declined it as he was unsure of the country’s future.

In 1963 he went to Turkey as adviser to CENTO for the MTA (Turkish equivalent of a geological survey). During this time he was visiting professor at the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara where he gained experience of university lecturing, which he much enjoyed.

In 1965 he returned to the UK and was appointed to the Geology Department at University College Swansea. He was a major asset to the department, not only for his teaching in economic geology (where he carried an enormous teaching load) but also for his contribution to geological mapping training. John’s time in Uganda was the source of countless stories that added colour to his lectures. Swansea geology graduates across the world are grateful for what they learned from John.

John’s original research publications were principally concerned with the history of mining, particularly in the Middle East. Summers were spent engaged on CENTO geological map training programmes that led to the 1971 award of OBE for training geologists in developing countries.

John’s name will live on in geology degree courses, thanks to his immensely successful Basic Geological Mapping, first published in 1981 and now in its fourth edition; it remains standard reading for most geology undergraduates.

John was devastated by Mary’s death in 1992, but soldiered on with more courage and independence than many had thought possible. In the past few years the deterioration of his eyesight meant that he had to give up driving, the Daily Telegraph crossword, the Journal of the Geological Society, but still looked forward to his Geoscientist. Finally, a heart attack and pulmonary congestion ended the life of this universally loved geological figure.

John CW Cope