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George Anthony Lobjoit Johnson 1925-2009

Tony was born on 5 September 1925 in the parish of Langley Marish, then in southernmost Buckinghamshire (now Berkshire). His father was a farm manager and company director, and his mother came from the Lobjoit family of well-known market gardeners. The second of three brothers, in 1945 he entered King’s College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (then part of Durham University) to read Geology. He graduated with first class honours (1949), staying on as a research student to investigate the Lower Carboniferous rocks along a central section of the Roman Wall near to Housesteads (PhD, 1953). Tony was appointed Lecturer in Geology in the University of Wales, Cardiff, (1952) where he remained for two years.

In 1954 Tony accepted a Research Assistantship (to Professor K C Dunham in the Geology Department, University of Durham) to map and describe the geology of the Nature Reserve in Upper Teesdale (now partly swamped by Cow Green Reservoir). Tony was appointed Lecturer in Geology at Durham in 1960. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1968 and to Reader in 1970. He retired in 1988 with the honorary title of Reader Emeritus and was delighted to be able to continue his research work in the Department until 2005 when Parkinson’s disease and a bad fall made further geological work impossible. He died on 9 April 2009.

Tony has been a much valued member of staff of the Durham Department, his teaching covering stratigraphy, palaeontology and especially the supervision of undergraduate field mapping projects. He introduced around 4000 first-year students to the annual week of field geology in northern England and supervised 1000 undergraduate field mapping projects. He supervised about 10 research students, all of whom obtained PhDs and he gave much help to other research students in various ways (such as fossil recognition and basic geology for geophysicists). He also gave much practical support in the running of the Department, including overseeing the construction of the new department building and its subsequent extensions and chairing the student-staff committee over many years.

Tony’s main research interest focused on the stratigraphy and palaeontology of the Carboniferous of Northern England and its wider implications - with a special interest in the rugose corals and subsidiary interest in interglacial deposits. His publications totalled about 115 research papers, books, field guides, etc. His contributions were recognised by Newcastle University in the award of a DSc in 1972.

Tony also undertook consultancy work in mining and quarrying and was heavily involved in the Rookhope borehole project. This penetrated the local Carboniferous into the Weardale granite. Tony helped with the initial logging and the subsequent borehole temperature measurements. Thirty years’ work on the biostratigraphy of the borehole was published in 1996, jointly with Dr J R Nudds, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In retirement, he extended his detailed knowledge of the geology of the Roman Wall along its whole length, leading to publication of the GA’s guide ‘Geology of Hadrian’s Wall’ (1997).

Tony served as Secretary of the Yorkshire Geological Society (1962-1967), was later President (1979 and 1980) and was awarded the Society’s Phillips Medal (1984). He was Vice-President of the Natural History Society of Northumbria from 1960, Chairman of the Council of Durham Wildlife Trust (1979-80) and a Trustee of the Freemen of Durham (1980 onwards). He acted as an adviser to the Nature Conservancy and to Durham County Planning Department on SSSIs, and was retained by the combined petitioners at the inquiry in Parliament before construction of the Cow Green reservoir.

Tony will be remembered for the strong practical support he gave to various Geological, Natural History, conservation and educational interests in northern England. Amongst those who have passed through the Department, he will be remembered for the unstinted friendship and support he gave to students, particularly in his supervision of field mapping projects and sympathetic help with personal problems.

In 1961 Tony married Dr Hazel Green, a palaeobotanist with complementary interests in Natural History, birds and gardens. He is survived by her, their son Edward and daughter Pam, and by his younger brother David.

Martin H P Bott