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PEOPLE - RETIREMENTS

End of an era

L-r: Professor Dick Aldridge, Professor David Siveter, Dr Ian Hill.

End of an era

Three retirements in the Department of Geology see over a century of combined experience celebrated at Leicester

One hundred and one years of Leicester Geology. That is what the combined total of experience and expertise – and very considerable academic success – accumulated by three people who are now retiring from the University’s Department of Geology: Professor David Siveter, Professor Dick Aldridge and Dr. Ian Hill. Their achievements were celebrated in a lunchtime gathering of friends, family and colleagues at the Department.

Professor David Siveter has been the longest serving. He has been almost continuously at the Department since 1965 – having been originally interviewed for study by one of the Department’s original lecturers, Dr. Trevor Ford – who was also at the ceremony today (Professor Siveter revealed that he then had been ‘frightened to death’ - but had proved sufficiently eloquent on being asked to talk about a fossil trilobite he had just been handed, that he was awarded the position!). Professor Siveter is well-known as a researcher who has uncovered secrets of the fossil world never seen before, and for being an expert in ostracods (‘seed shrimps’) minute crustaceans so well-endowed – even as fossils – that the Sun newspaper devoted a major story to one of his discoveries concerning them.

His close colleague, Professor Dick Aldridge, has been at Leicester a ‘mere’ 22 years, including a spell as Head of Department. Professor Aldridge has also worked on some of the world’s most exquisitely preserved fossils, from all over the world. He is an expert in conodonts, tiny but complex fossils that for many years were thoroughly enigmatic; he played a leading role in solving this mystery, to reveal them as, essentially, the teeth of extinct, soft-bodied fish-like animals. Between them (and often working jointly), these two Leicester palaeontologists have published many papers in Nature and Science, the world’s two foremost scientific journals.

Dr. Ian Hill’s sojourn at Leicester has been 33 years. His specialism is geophysics, and he became an expert in the various means by which one may ‘sense’ the structures that lie just below the ground, by combining electrical, radar and other signals. Such expertise is has almost literally countless uses, ranging from finding groundwater and minerals to providing information for engineers to uncovering ancient archaeological sites and finding evidence of modern crimes – and Ian will remain part-time with the Department, having won a 3-year European Union grant to carry out research into this methodology. His expertise, too, in operating the complex spreadsheet systems by means of which examination marks are collated, have made him a quite indispensible figure in those stressful days of the January and June exams…

All three said they would remain closely linked to the Department and will continue to pursue their research interests – and all three paid tribute to the warm and hospitable spirit maintained in the Geology ‘family’ of which they were such prominent members for so many years. Long may that spirit persist – even as they (officially) retire from active duties.

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