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Philip Edward Richter Lovelock, 1941-2008

Philip Lovelock died on 26 July 2008 at the Countess Mountbatten Hospice in Southampton of cancer, aged 66. He was born on 10 September 1941. He read Geology at Birmingham University, graduating with First Class Honours in 1963. On graduating, he joined Hydrogeology Unit of the Institute of Geological Sciences (now the BGS), then located in South Kensington. During this time he studied for and was awarded a PhD from London University.

In 1973 he left the IGS to join Shell, which at that stage was starting to evaluate the potential for oil in the onshore areas of the UK and for which he provided much of the local geological expertise. After some years in London, during which time a number of geologically very interesting (but commercially unsuccessful) wells, such as Cooles Farm-1 (Minety borehole) were drilled, he was transferred to Shell’s international exploration staff and spent the next years in the Middle East – with postings in Oman and Egypt - and with the start up of a venture in Syria, where he was involved in the first oil discovery in the Euphrates graben at Thayyem.

A publication from this time was a review of the tectonics of the Northern Middle East, which appeared in the Geological Magazine in 1984. Such was his expertise on Syria that in retirement he was invited to contribute to a prestigious book on the geology of Syria, Treasures of the Earth (2005), produced jointly by Shell, Petro-Canada and the Syrian Petroleum Company. Another publication from this time was a paper on the Ordovician of the Oman Mountains, based on field work carried out with colleagues as a “weekend” activity outside their normal oil company duties.

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, there was the possibility for Western oil companies to start exploring in a vast new area – but about which very little was known, in a modern geological sense. Shell initiated a major evaluation exercise and he travelled extensively in the former Soviet Union, making contact with the old state controlled oil companies, research institutes and universities, the results of which were documented in an impressive series of compilation reports which, for obvious commercial reasons, never saw the light of day outside Shell.

He retired in 1998 though he did remain active with Shell as a consultant. This was a time of great personal tragedy for him with the death of his daughter Larissa from cancer. He lived first in Fordwich, said to be the smallest town in England and one of the “limbs” of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, and of which he served as Mayor Deputy (who, as a token allegiance, pays "Ship Money" to the Mayor of Sandwich). In 2002, he moved to Winchester with his wife, Carole. He is survived by her, his two sons, Joseph and Dominic, and two grandchildren, Floyd and Rudie.

Philip was an outstanding geologist, with an exceptional ability to combine an eye for detail with the broader picture. He will be much missed by his Shell colleagues and by his university friends, with whom he kept in contact throughout his life.

John Parker