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Andrew Parker 1941-2017

Ph.D. (Reading), B.A. (Keele), FGS, F.Min. Soc., FRSC, C.Geol., C.Chem

Head of the Postgraduate Research Institute for Sedimentology at Reading University, with a passion for fast cars and Bridge

Andrew was the Head (Director) of the Postgraduate Research Institute for Sedimentology (PRIS) at the University of Reading, from 1993 to 2003. PRIS was the direct successor of the Sedimentology Research Laboratory, which was opened on the Whiteknights Campus of Reading University by Professor Perce Allen in 1961, with a substantial financial contribution from the oil industry. PRIS continued the ethos of the Sedimentology Research Laboratory by attracting funding from industry to support sound scientific research with relevance to the practical problems of industry.

Andrew graduated from Keele University in 1964 with a B.A. in Geology and Chemistry. He moved to Reading University to undertake research under the supervision of Mr. J. E. Thomas, graduating with his Ph.D. in 1967. He was appointed as a Research Officer with responsibility for the X-Ray unit in the Geology Department, subsequently being promoted to Senior Research Officer, Principal Research Officer and Senior Lecturer in a career spanning over 40 years at Reading.

Research directions

Andrew undertook active research throughout his career, continuing to do so even during the university’s administration-heavy period from 1988 to 2003, when he was Deputy Director and then Director of PRIS. From an early focus on mineralogy, Andrew’s research changed to the study of environmental pollution in modern sediments and he made a significant contribution to the understanding of the behaviour of organic contaminants in these sediments. He published 74 refereed journal papers and 43 refereed chapters and articles in books on the geochemistry of sediments and sedimentary rocks, often in collaboration with fellow academics, research fellows and research students. His last paper appeared in 2015. Andrew edited four books, two on Sedimentary Diagenesis with Bruce Sellwood, on the Environmental Interaction of Clays with Joy Carter and on The Frontiers of Geochemistry with Russell Harmon. Andrew was particularly proud of these four books, which continue to be used widely by scholars in these fields.

Andrew was very active in seeking external funding to support his research; in his career he attracted £1.6M of industry research contracts and £0.5M of Research Council grants to the University of Reading.

Calm and competent

Andrew made a substantial contribution to the supervision of research students, as well as to postgraduate and undergraduate teaching in both the Geology Department and in PRIS. He supervised and co-supervised 59 research students. In 1991, a NERC review concluded that there was national need for more training in hydrogeology at M.Sc. level. Andrew was instrumental in ensuring that one of the M.Sc. courses started in PRIS. He was also influential in the creation of the B.Sc. course in Environmental Science of the Earth and Atmosphere. It was a pleasure to teach field classes with Andrew—always calm and competent in all winds and weathers, and preferring civilized accommodation to the cheap (and usually cold) digs and camps to which most of us had grown accustomed!

Colleagues from the Geology Department and PRIS remember Andrew’s qualities as a teacher and administrator, and for being a loyal and stalwart member of our geological community. He worked hard to keep the department and subsequently PRIS at the front of technical developments, which helped to maintain a lively research environment.

Strategic thinker

Andrew was a valuable, courteous and supportive colleague. He was a strategic thinker, always providing an illuminating contribution to an academic debate in feedback to a student transfer report, often most astute in subjects he was not a specific expert in. He could put his finger on the nub of a debate very quickly, and this was invaluable in project design or in identifying a path forward in existing projects.

Perhaps Andrew’s outstanding contribution to the University of Reading came in 1988, during the dark days of the Earth Science Review when the university was faced with the prospect of the forced closure of the Sedimentology Research Laboratory by the then University Grants Committee (UGC). Andrew initiated a flood of letters to the UGC from eminent sedimentologists around the world, a campaign that resulted in a reversal of the original decision and the successful set-up of PRIS, under the directorship of John Allen, with Andrew as his deputy.


Andrew was a Fellow of the Geological Society (Chartered Geologist), a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society (Vice-President, 1996-1997) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (Chartered Chemist). He was Chairman of the British Sedimentological Research Group (1990-1991) and Chairman of the Committee of Heads of University Geoscience Departments (2001-2003).

Andrew enjoyed driving fast cars and sailing fast dinghies. As one colleague put it, Andrew was a World War 2 Spitfire pilot only with a Triumph Spitfire instead! He was a very successful Bridge player, being a member of the Reading Bridge Club team that won the Berkshire County Bridge League 12 times. He was Secretary of the Parochial Church Council of his local church and sang in the choir. Andrew was married twice, to Anne (the marriage was dissolved) and then to Aniela, who survives him. Andrew passed away after a long illness on 28th December, 2017.

By Clive McCann, with contributions from colleagues from Reading University

Andrew Parker Obituary: Comments from colleagues

Ian Main summed up Andrew’s contribution to the ethos of the Geology Department in these words: “I still remember those days [in the Geology Department] when we were all working together fondly, and Andrew was very much part of that team. I remember Andrew as a valuable, courteous and supportive colleague, always providing an illuminating contribution to an academic debater in feedback to a student transfer report, often most astute in subjects he was not a specific expert in. He could put his finger on the nub of a debate very quickly, and this was invaluable in project design or in identifying a path forward in existing projects”.

Robin Adams wrote: “I was loosely attached to the Department for about twenty years [as the International Seismological Centre Research Fellow] up to my retirement in 1995, and although I never worked closely with Andrew, I was most conscious of his qualities as a teacher, administrator and a person. He was always most popular and respected by all in the Department, and he has left a wonderful legacy”.

John Allen wrote: “My impression of Andrew was always of a loyal and stalwart member of our geological community. He was a strategic thinker, good with money, who worked hard to keep the Department at the front of technical developments, that helped maintain a lively research environment”.

Clive McCann wrote: “I supervised several rock physics research students jointly with Andrew and he was most helpful with the sedimentological aspects of their projects. I appointed Andrew as my Deputy when I was Head of the Geology Department, and I knew that I could rely on him implicitly during my absence on field classes etc. When he was Director of PRIS he asked me to organise the submission on our teaching to the then Higher Education Funding Council, and to host the HEFCE review team when they visited. I was delighted to undertake that for him in collaboration with John Thomas and Trevor Halsall from the Geoscience Teaching Group, and even more delighted when our teaching was rated as ‘Outstanding’. I liked working with Andrew very much—he was calm, thoughtful and highly intelligent. A great colleague”.

Stuart Black wrote: “Andrew was the head of PRIS when he offered me a lecturing post in 1998. I was just out of a research fellowship and when I joined PRIS it was a vibrant, diverse and exciting community of researchers and teachers. Andrew was always supportive as a head of department and helped me enormously to establish my academic career by allowing me the opportunity to establish a laboratory, the basis of which is still running today. Andrew was willing to support early career researchers such as myself and others in establishing their careers and had a good eye for the future. Andrew was a shrewd head of department and a good colleague and I enjoyed discussions with him, it was never a dull moment in committee meetings where Andrew seemed to excel! Andrew was also fundamental with others in encouraging the NERC supported MSc programme in Geoarchaeology that was established at Reading. This course went on to train a generation of geoarchaeologists that have gone into both academia and industry and have established themselves as true inter-disciplinarians. Without his support in this venture, this associated discipline would be much poorer, just one example of Andrew’s foresight and far reaching impact”.

Joy Carter wrote: “Rather than cite any one or more specific works, I might add something about the fields to which Andrew contributed. He moved from a focus on mineralogy in his early career to making a very significant contribution in the field of environmental pollution later in his career where he worked on pollutant behaviour in modern sedimentary environments. He worked on trace metals and radionuclides but perhaps his most significant contribution was in a relatively new field—organic contaminants in sedimentary systems where he and I collaborated with Alan House. My own memories of Andrew are, as you might imagine, very rich and varied, although now distant. I remember him particularly as stylish astute individual with a real zest for life, a passion for geology, a strong Christian faith and a huge loyalty to Reading University and his colleagues. I am so very sad about his passing”.