OBITUARY: Professor Stanley Westoll

Stanley Westoll was an outstanding palaeontologist, particularly of the vertebrates, and a world authority on fossil fish.

His early work on the cosmine-covering of the scales and head bones of Osteolepis and Dipterus, which led to the clarification of taxonomic difficulties in these fish, and his later studies on the evolution of the lung fishes, the paired fins of placoderms, the anatomy, taxonomy and evolution of coelocanths, and then a major publication on the Haplolepidae, a family of late Carboniferous bony fish, could have led to his being labelled absolutely as a palaeoichthyologist.

But he made equally substantial contributions to our anatomical knowledge of the evolution of the middle ear, the homology of the mammalian palate, the origin of the primitive tetrapod limb, as well as defining the ancestry of the tetrapods and the captorhinomorph reptiles.

His geological interests were also much wider than only those within and immediately surrounding vertebrate palaeontology. With his research students he unravelled the stratigraphy and correlation of the Old Red Sandstone, particularly around the Moray Firth area and in Caithness, a part of the country of which he was especially fond.

His other authoritative writings extended over a broad spectrum, from continental drift through Carboniferous cyclothems and the biosphere as an agent in the concentration of elements, to the academic background of undergraduates and the training of postgraduates. In all these writings he showed a focused approach and attention to detail that characterised his scientific work.

Stanley Westoll was born in 1912 and entered Armstrong College (later King's College and then the University of Newcastle upon Tyne) at the young age of 17 as the holder of an Open Entrance Scholarship, after his early education at the grammar school in his native West Hartlepool. During the following five years he obtained a First Class honours degree in Geology (with subsidiary Zoology and Metallurgy) and completed a PhD on the Permian fishes of England.

A DSIR Senior Research Award took him for three years to London, where he came under the influence of the distinguished vertebrate palaeontologist D.M.S. Watson, then the Jodrell Professor of Zoology at University College. So began Westoll's researches on the fossil fishes of the Old Red Sandstone, which were to remain as a central focus of his multifarious research interests. His time at University College culminated with the award of an 1851 Exhibition Research Fellowship which he soon had to relinquish on his appointment to a Lectureship in Geology at Aberdeen University, where for several years he was also in charge of Metallurgy. His inevitable appointment to a professorship followed in 1948, when he moved to the J.B. Simpson Chair of Geology at King's College, Newcastle.

Honours fell on Stanley Westoll. He was elected to the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh; he was the recipient of the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London, the Medal of the Linnean Society for Zoology and the Clough Medal of the Geological Society of Edinburgh. He was President of the Palaeontological Society and the Geological Society of London.

Within his own university he was Head of Department from his appointment to the chair until his retirement 29 years later - a most unlikely event these days. He was a fluent speaker and persuasive teacher who carried a heavy teaching load for many years. Most supportive of his students, many of whom have prospered as a result of his guidance, he will be remembered not least for his unrivalled fund of anecdotes.

Duncan Murchison

Thomas Stanley Westoll, palaeontologist: born West Hartlepool, Co Durham 3 July 1912; Lecturer in Geology, Aberdeen University 1937-48; FRSE 1943; J.B. Simpson Professor of Geology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (formerly King's College, Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham University) 1948-77 (Emeritus); FRS 1952; married 1939 Dorothy Wood (one son; marriage dissolved 1951), 1952 Barbara McAdie; died Newcastle upon Tyne 19 September 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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 People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker