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Miles Osmaston 1925 - 2019

A prolific author with wide ranging interests, who always sought to engage with others

Miles OsmastonMiles Osmaston was born on 15th July 1925 in Petworth, Sussex.  His mother had returned to England from India with her young son Henry to give birth to Miles, but the family then returned to join his father, Arthur, who was working for the Indian Forest Department, one of several family members to do so[1].  By 1928 Miles was back in England, being educated privately until he was sent to a prep school in Seaford aged 8.  


When he was aged 10, Miles was seriously ill with osteomyelitis.  After 10 weeks in hospital followed by 15 months in a clinic in Alton and a period of schooling at home, he was eventually fit enough to resume his education, aged 15, at Radley College, Oxfordshire.  Not being eligible for National Service on health grounds, he went straight to Oxford University, graduating in 1949 with a degree in Engineering Science. Following a year at Durham University, he took a job with Mullard/Philips who manufactured radio valves, but was later involved in aircraft engineering and airborne weapons development until a change in government policy put an end to this work.

Imperial College

This led to a complete change of direction and to studies at Imperial College in 1966. Here he investigated the internal structure of the Earth, what was to become known as plate tectonics, and in time, to quote from his website ( to pursue in parallel his “… interests, both in fundamental physical-astrophysical dynamical matters (including gravitation) and in the Earth's internal behaviour and evolution, as evidenced by plate dynamical behaviour, …”.

Miles was elected Fellow of the Geological Society in November 1966, presenting his first paper at a meeting the following year. He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1992 and was a member of the European Geosciences Union from 2007, the Geochemical Society from 2004 to 2016 and the European Association of Geochemistry from 2006 to 2016.


He was a prolific author. Nearly 150 papers and abstracts are listed on his website, among the first being a paper published in Nature in 1967 on ‘Core convection, the Earth's figure and continental drift’, followed in 1971 by one in Tectonophysics. He continued to publish and also present papers at conferences until a few years prior to his death, when his health prevented this.

Of his work as a scientist, Prof E.H. (Ernie) Rutter said that Miles was a "... man who respected the scientific views of others and always sought to engage. He had scientific views on geoscience issues that were often tangential to the mainstream but he always sought to found his thinking in solid science. He had a wide appreciation of many aspects of the physical sciences."

Miles passed away on 3rd May 2019.  He married Margaret (née Whitworth) in Great St. Mary’s, Cambridge in 1956, and she survives him along with his daughters Mary and Liz and son John.

By Wendy Cawthorne, with assistance from Mary Osmaston, Liz Hampshire and Nigel Osmaston.

[1] Osmaston, H. (1989) The Osmaston family: foresters and imperial servants. The Commonwealth Forestry Review; 68(1), pp. 77-87