Thursday 16 December 2010

Farewell To Another Professor

Today I received my copy of GeoCam, the alumni magazine for the Dept of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. And my heart sank when I read that on 16th September of this year Professor Tjeerd Van Andel died. He was one of my lecturers for the module on climatology I studied in my third year at Cambridge, and taught the first year sedimentology course.

He told us about the North Atlantic Conveyor, about ocean currents and thermohaline circulation. We learned about CCDs and ACDs, and I got to take out my frustrations on a LOT of foraminifera. But most memorable was the lecture he gave at the end of Lent term in our first year. It was a slide show of his work aboard Alvin, the deep-sea submersible. Professor Van Andel was the first person to ever see the weird and wonderful animals living around the deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

Hydrothermal vents are on the GCSE biology specification, in the context of adaptations to extreme environments. It has been, and is still, a delight to pass on some of what I learned from Professor Van Andel to a generation of eager (in theory) science students. And I am so proud to be able to tell them that I was taught by the first person to see the tube worms, crabs and snails that make their homes there.

It is an irony that, on the day I learn of this great man's death it is also announced that Alvin is to receive an upgrade for the next 50-odd years of research.

There is an obituary from the University of Cambridge, and a longer one from Standford University, along with some delightful memories of his earlier years.

In geological terms, 87 years was no time at all.

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