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Geoffrey Robert John Browning 1944-2010

Browning GRJ
Geoffrey Browning, who has died aged 65, was a pioneer in the teaching of Engineering Geology, Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology. His enthusiasm was obvious to all who attended his classes and his delivery was accompanied by much waving of arms and pacing about the lecture room. It is reported that a student once asked if arm waving was expected in examination answers. Geoff’s inspiration showed his students how to be professional in the water and environment-based engineering world and made them proud to follow their chosen course. To him, a degree was far more than obtaining a qualification but a gateway to a much wider and interesting working world; in this context he changed many lives for the better.

In the field he instructed his students in the importance of what he called, “Browning’s First Law of Geotechnics” which was: “Always know exactly where you are”. He was a big man with a big presence and he could fill a room with his personality and humorous conversation on those mysteries such as how it was possible to put men on the moon but not make a toaster that would toast evenly. His congenial nature and thorough professionalism earned him the affection and respect of his students and colleagues.

Geoffrey Browning was born on 11 July 1944 in Exeter but spent most of his early life in West London. He obtained his BSc. from the University of Leicester following it with an MSc (Geophysics) and DIC from Imperial College. He then held appointments in geology and geotechnics including the NCB (OE) in NE England and a research assistantship in Durham University. In 1970 he was appointed to a lectureship at Portsmouth University working closely with Neil Duncan on the BSc in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics and with Bill Hodges on Civil Engineering courses and went on to develop a BSc in Applied Environmental Geology in 1989/90. He became a part time tutor in science and technology with the Open University where he directed many summer schools as the “big, kind and caring tutor”.

From the mid-1980s he was involved with waste and contaminated land engineering together with re-cycling & reclamation of waste materials from the construction & extractive industries and was experienced in EIA work. He advised or was professionally associated with government bodies, regulatory authorities, private industry, banks, insurers and funding agencies; professional experience was gained in the UK, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece & North Africa. Where confidentiality permitted his work on topics such as ground gas emissions and geomembrane quality assurance appeared as refereed papers.

Denied a much deserved promotion in 1990 he refreshed himself in consultancy, joining Wardell Armstrong as an Associate where he worked alongside some former students. However he missed the stimulation and challenges afforded by teaching and in 1993 he joined Staffordshire University as Principal Lecturer where, as a much valued colleague, he extended his teaching into professional practice topics such as the legal framework under which geologists have to operate.

He believed strongly in the importance of professional recognition, achieving CEng (1973), FIMM (1980), EurIng (1988) and was fully committed to chartership within the geological profession gaining CGeol status in 1990. He became a FCIWEM in 2002 and a CSci and CEnv in 2004. He played an active part in all the professional bodies with which he was associated and was a thorough and fair assessor of candidates for chartership.

Following his wife’s untimely death he retired from full time work but continued to consult and to teach until prevented by his own illness. Geoff regarded his illness with cancer as his last challenge in life and faced it with fortitude, dying peacefully at home with his family in attendance.

Dave Roberts