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Ferdinand Geoffrey Larminie, 1929-2008

Geoff Larminie died 16 October 2008, eight months short of his 80th birthday. He had enjoyed a long and varied career, working in industry, academia and public service and also found time to contribute to a remarkable number of institutions. He never lost touch with his geological roots, but early in his career developed a keen interest in environmental matters and this concern for the natural environment was to be become a hallmark of his endeavours later in life.

Geoff was born in Dublin in June 1929 and educated at St Andrew’s College and Trinity College Dublin, where he obtained a double first in Geology and Zoology. He then lectured for six years in Glasgow and Sydney before joining BP in 1960. This was at a time when BP was actively engaged in the search for new sources of oil and during the next seven years Geoff worked as an exploration geologist in the UK, Greece, Alaska and Kuwait before moving to Libya in 1966 as senior geologist. His love of fieldwork was put to good use in Greece and Alaska, as was his immaculate calligraphy, making his notebooks and maps a pleasure to peruse.

In 1967 Geoff was posted to Alaska. This was a momentous episode in BP’s history with the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay field in 1968. In 1964 Geoff had led the key field expedition to the Sadlerochit Mountains of north eastern Alaska where the Triassic reservoirs were exposed, making this a most satisfying outcome to his earlier work. As Area Manager in Alaska, Geoff‘s role played to his political strengths and it is a testament to his contribution to the high regard in which BP was held by the various government authorities and agencies, that in 1971 he was awarded the OBE for his services.

Geoff left Alaska in 1971 and, following three years as Head of BP’s exploration activities in Thailand, was transferred to BP Group Head Office in London. Following two years as General Manager Public Affairs and Information Department he was appointed General Manager of the Environmental Control Centre with responsibility for the environmental impacts of the BP Group’s operations worldwide, a role that allowed Geoff to combine his twin passions for geology and care of the natural environment.

Following his retirement from BP in 1987 Geoff served for three years as Director of the British Geological Survey. This appointment came at a key juncture in the evolution of this venerable institution. Geoff’s relaxed inclusive management style and his experience in dealing with Government, was instrumental in enabling BGS to pass successfully through the recommendations of the Butler Review without becoming fragmented.

During the 1980s Geoff held an amazingly broad portfolio of appointments to a wide range of public and private sector institutions. A number of these focused on work in the Arctic and Antarctic, whilst others reflected his broad concern for environmental protection. Of particular note was his chairmanship of the International Petroleum Industry’s Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) from 1981 to 1983, membership of the National Environmental Research Council from 1983 to 1987, membership of the Polar Research Board of the US National Research Council from 1984 to 1987 and from 1979 to 1984 membership of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

In addition to his OBE and his joint receipt of the MacRobert Award for participating in the work that led to the discovery of Prudhoe Bay, Geoff’s various honours and awards included Honorary Fellowship of Trinity College (1989), Life Trusteeship of the Bermuda Biological Station in 1991 and Honorary Fellowship of the Society for Underwater Technology in 1992.

Geoff is survived by his loving wife Helen to whom he was married for 52 years; a daughter Susan, son Christopher and three grandsons. He lived a rich and fulfilling life. To those who knew him the lasting memory will be of a gregarious larger-than-life red-headed Irishman, with his pipe always on the go and a cheerful greeting for all. He will be sorely missed.

David Jenkins