Obituary: Professor Geoff Brown

Geoffrey Charles Brown, vulcanologist, born Yorkshire 11 March 1945, Lecturer in Geophysics Liverpool University 1971-77, Lecturer Open University 1977-82, Professor of Earth Sciences 1982-92, Head of Department of Earth Sciences 1983-93, married 1966 Evelyn Petzing (three daughters), died Galeras Colombia 14 January 1993.

GEOFF BROWN, the vulcanologist, was one of two British delegates at a workshop in Colombia designed to establish a comprehensive geophysical and geochemical monitoring programme at Galeras volcano, Colombia.

The meeting was funded by the US National Science Foundation, and Galeras had been identified as one of the most important volcanoes to study in this International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction because of its high level of activity and proximity to large towns such as Pasto. Brown was killed when the cone inside the crater erupted, sending rock fragments hundreds of metres into the air at over 1,000C.

Brown was an active and productive researcher in several fields, from experimental studies on granites, to geothermal energy evaluation, to physical vulcanology. I worked closely with him on the latter project over the last 10 years developing techniques, first to map out the sub-surface structure of active volcanoes and then to monitor and model changes within them. The objective of the research is to understand how volcanoes work and what processes operate within them before and during eruption. We use gravity and ground deformation measurements to do this and it was while setting up a network of observations within the active crater of Galeras volcano that Brown was killed. His untimely death is a tremendous loss to vulcanology - his insight into the relationships between geophysics, geochemistry and geology and their applications inspired his colleagues and enthused every one he met.

Vulcanology was only one aspect of Brown's busy life. He had been the Head of the Earth Sciences department at the Open University since 1983, responsible for teaching the equivalent of 1,000 undergraduate students. A gifted teacher and communicator, he wrote several undergraduate teaching texts and presented television and radio programmes both for the OU and BBC, including a Horizon documentary. He also co- authored and co-edited respectively the much praised textbooks Understanding the Earth and The Inaccessible Earth. As if this was not enough, he somehow found time to chair the Research Committee, co-ordinating research enterprises throughout the Open University.

Brown's philosophy of life was to live to the full and he threw himself wholeheartedly into everything he did. The University Grants Council identified his department as one of the top seven in the UK in 1989, but the unique funding of the Open University meant that no funds for further expansion were forthcoming. He therefore actively sought external and internal monies and a new laboratory wing partly funded by the Wolfson Foundation was opened by the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday. This is the first building on the campus to be financed in this way and to be devoted entirely to research activities; it is tragic that Geoff Brown, who worked so hard for this moment, was not there in person.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor