Professor Douglas Shearman

Unorthodox and inspiring geologist

Douglas James Shearman, geologist: born Isleworth, Middlesex 2 July 1918; Assistant Lecturer, Imperial College, London 1949-51, Lecturer 1951-63, Senior Lecturer 1963-71, Reader 1971-78, Professor of Sedimentology 1978-83 (Emeritus); married 1949 Maureen Pugsley (two sons, one daughter); died Cassington, Oxfordshire 12 May 2003.

During his long career as a geologist at Imperial College, London, Douglas Shearman was a charismatic, enthusiastic, dedicated and unorthodox teacher and research worker. His lectures and seminars, illustrated by his own elegant and explicit diagrams, were stimulating and exciting. His view, now deeply unfashionable, was that it was his responsibility to show students how to think and not to fill their minds with endless details. Staff and students alike regarded him with admiration and affection, even those staff whose forms he failed to fill.

When Shearman was presented in 1984 with the Lyell Medal of the Geological Society by the President, Professor Janet Watson, she summed up his research genius:

Two aspects of your scientific personality stand out. One is your genuine delight in a new idea and the way in which such an idea tends to dominate your thoughts to the exclusion of all else - the second, your ability to look at some very simple phenomenon which others have taken for granted and find something new in it.

After a primary education in Hounslow, west London, Shearman moved with his parents to Southend, where he completed his school education and, importantly, spent many hours exploring the Thames estuary and Essex marshes. After school he joined the Post Office as a trainee engineer. However his career was short-lived because in 1939 he was recruited into the Royal Navy. During his basic training in Dover he met in the Naafi Tom Pain, a young soldier who was examining a fossil from the chalk using a hand lens. Discussions over tea and doughnuts set Shearman on a career in geology.

After the Second World War, much of which was spent as a wireless operator on a minesweeper in the North Atlantic, keeping the lanes clear for the Russian convoys, chance played another trick. Shearman went to live in Chelsea and heard that at Chelsea Polytechnic there was a course in geology. He enrolled in 1946 and came under the influence of William Fleet, a remarkable and inspiring geologist who taught all the courses and ran all the field excursions. Shearman was awarded a first class degree and appointed Assistant Lecturer at Imperial College by H.H. Read.

Read, who recognised that the study of sedimentary rocks was becoming increasingly important, called Shearman in and said, "We need someone to work on and teach about sedimentary rocks, and I have chosen you." So Shearman became leader of the Sedimentary Subsection (initially of one), a post he retained until he retired in 1983.

Doug Shearman's research interests were very varied. They frequently resulted from a new look at an old problem or the connecting of two apparently unconnected phenomena. A big advantage he had was his ability to remember practically everything he read or saw. He would, for example, refer to a paper published in an obscure journal some 30 years earlier which was absolutely relevant. The downside of his ability was his tendency not to label any samples he collected or any photographs he took until they were required for publication.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s two major areas of research developed in the Sedimentology group under Shearman's direction. The first was a study of the limestones and dolomites found in the French Jura. Here Brian Evamy and Shearman developed micro-chemical staining techniques which helped unlock the cementation history of limestones, and Shearman, with other students, used trace element and other methods to elucidate the processes of dolomitisation and dedolomitisation of limestones. These techniques have since been used worldwide. The second area of research was on the inter-tidal sediments of the Wash on the east coast which was initiated by Graham Evans.

When the study of modern inter-tidal/supra-tidal sediment deposition was transferred to the arid environment of the Trucial Coast of the Arabian Gulf (now the United Arab Emirates), Shearman, Evans and their co-researchers defined what was to be called the Sabkha environment, and recorded the first example of Recent anhydrite. This study, together with one Shearman made in Baja California on inter-tidal laminated halite (salt) deposits, allowed him, working with John Fuller in Canada and others around the world, to re-interpret ancient evaporite sequences with great benefit to the oil industry.

In recognition of his work in sedimentology, Shearman was awarded a DSc and personal Chair in Sedimentology (the first in the country).

Peter Bush

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker