Coke Medal – Robin Strachan:

Coke Medal – Robin Strachan

The second of the Coke medals to be awarded today goes to a consummate field geologist whose research, spanning three decades, takes us back to what may be termed the intellectual heartland of much of this Society’s history- the geological evolution of the Scottish Highlands.

Rob Strachan’s work forms a keystone in constructing a deeper understanding of the age and deposition of Neoproterozoic rocks, and the tectonothermal processes associated with the Caledonian orogen and the development of the Iapetus and Rheic oceans.

Clearly set out in a sustained series of publications, Rob’s research has focused on unravelling the complex structural, sedimentological, metamorphic and geochronological history of deformed successions in this ancient mountain system and its associated sedimentary basins. It has been time-consuming, painstaking work, requiring the synthesis of observations spanning the true geological scale from microscopic to global.

His many insights include documenting a major tectonic event during the Neoproterozoic evolution of the North Atlantic region – the enigmatic Knoydartian Orogeny – developing a structural model of the Great Glen Fault as an ancient Iapetan transform fault, and using chemostratigraphy to link the rocks of the Highlands with correlative successions worldwide. The intellectual agility and sustained curiosity that informs his work has enabled him to combine leading-edge laboratory techniques with detailed, methodical fieldwork of the sort that this Society’s founders would have recognised and approved most heartily.

Rob, who began his research career in Keele working on the Moine rocks of West Inverness-shire, is now Head of School at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Portsmouth University. He is a truly collaborative scientist, who freely shares his knowledge and ideas with collaborators and many research students. His work for the Society, including eight years as subject editor and six as Chief Editor of the JGS, in which role he was famously both firm and fair, reveals a level of commitment to collegiality that stands as an example to us all.

Rob Strachan, please accept, with our thanks and admiration, the Coke Medal of The Geological Society of London.

Rob Strachan replied:

Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all I must thank the Society for bestowing such an unexpected honour. I feel very humble when I see the names of previous recipients of Coke Medals. There are many people to acknowledge over the years. My parents greatly encouraged my academic studies, my father supervising my holiday field sketches of folds in the Aberystwyth Grits when I was aged seven! Thankfully, my arts A-levels did not prevent me from being accepted onto the BSc Geology course at Aberystwyth. Influential figures there included Bill Fitches, Denis Bates, Alex Maltman and Max Dobson who sent me off to the Ross of Mull for my undergraduate mapping, after an indifferent first couple of years on my degree course. This seemed to me to be a huge adventure at the time and changed everything – even after six weeks of camping in a cow field in a small tent that absorbed Scottish rain like blotting paper I knew that this was what I wanted to do!

I applied myself rather more rigorously in my final year and duly won a NERC studentship to go to Keele to study Moine geology with John Winchester and Gilbert Kelling, also benefiting from the support of Graham Park and Bob Roach. I was one of the last generation of PhD students who were easily able to go straight into a lectureship without postdoctoral research, and I thank Mike Brown for appointing me to my first at Oxford Polytechnic and encouraging me to broaden my research horizons. More latterly I owe particular thanks to David Hughes who facilitated my move to Portsmouth and a broader-based department with applied geologists and environmental scientists.

Over the years I have been greatly inspired by teaching, learnt much from a succession of excellent research students and gained hugely from multidisciplinary collaborations with valued colleagues and friends too numerous to mention around the world. However, I especially acknowledge Nigel Woodcock, co-editor and co-author of our undergraduate textbook.

Last, but certainly not least, I thank my wife Wendy and my children for their continued support for a husband and father who has often been absent and not very attentive!

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