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Ken Glennie (1926-2019)

Renowned sedimentologist with a sharp intellect and passion for geology

Ken GlennieKen left a positive footprint wherever he trod and his enthusiasm for the science of geology will not be forgotten. A modest, friendly man, Ken was easy company and his characteristically relaxed manner belied his sharp intellect and passion for geology.

‘The father of Oman’s geology’

Professor Kenneth W. Glennie D.Sc, ex-Shell Chief Geologist and latterly Honorary Professor at the University of Aberdeen, was arguably best known for expanding the science of desert sedimentary systems that became instrumental in a strategy of wealth creation in the exploration and production of gas from the UK Southern North Sea from the 1960s onward. 

He gained global recognition for his seminal 1970 book “Desert Sedimentary Environments”. Equally significant was his renown as the ‘father of Oman’s geology.’ His pioneering work studying the Oman Mountains earned him the enduring respect of the Omani Royal Family and citizens alike. 

Retirement provided Ken with opportunity to expand his geological activities, taking the leading role in producing ‘Petroleum Geology of the North Sea’ (1986), and being pivotal in the revival of the Geology Department at the University of Aberdeen. His productive academic career included definitive publications on Arabian geology.


Ken received the Major John Coke Medal (1986), the Silver Medal of the Petroleum Group (2000) and the William Smith Medal (2001), all from the Geological Society of London. He was also a recipient of the Van Waterschoot van der Gracht Medal (1999) from the Royal Geological and Mining Society of the Netherlands, the Alfred Wegener Medal (2000) from the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ Sidney Powers Award (2005), the first time the award was ever made to a non-US citizen living outside USA.

Infectious curiosity

Ken delighted in the beauty of diverse natural environments and extolled the virtue of creating and maintaining balance between wealth creation and the sanctity of the natural environment. His infectious curiosity for geology and much more will last beyond his passing within the minds of those he taught and befriended; a great but humble global ambassador for geology and science.

By Caroline Hern, Andrew Hurst and Brian Williams