Obituary: Professor Robert Kidd

Steve Sparks
Friday 14 June 1996 23:02 BST

Professor Robert Kidd was a leading figure in the hugely successful international programme exploring the world's oceans by deep drilling. This programme involves 19 countries and has been responsible for some of the most important developments in understanding the evolution of our planet.

Kidd became involved in the International Deep Sea Drilling Programme as a post-doctoral fellow at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California from 1973 to 1975, where he carried out the first synthesis on sediment distributions in a developing ocean through time. He was involved in ocean drilling science from then on. He participated in five drilling expeditions, on three of which he was co-chief scientist, as well as many other geological oceanographic studies.

Some of the outstanding results from this research include recognition of anoxic events (periods of large-scale stagnation) in the Mediterranean and the first plan-view studies of large-scale sedimentary features in the North Atlantic using side-scan sonar. His personal studies on the history of ocean circulation, sediment drift and high resolution stratigraphy are widely acclaimed.

Kidd's commitment to the exploration of the deep ocean through drilling, along with his passionate belief in the worth of the data collected, was paramount for more than two decades. He obtained his PhD in 1973 working in the Tyrrhenian Sea. His early work included research on bottom current control on sedimentation (how ocean currents control and move sediment) and hydro-thermal formation of seamount micronodules (sea-mount is an old volcano sunk beneath the sea, on which manganese oxide nodules form over a long period of time). His academic career took him from a full Professor of Oceanography at Texas A & M University to a Chair of Geology at the University of Wales Cardiff in 1989.

At Texas he was charged with putting in place procedures for pre-cruise planning, shipboard organisation, and post-cruise activities and publications. He also developed the state- of-the-art shipboard and share-based laboratories for the great ship of the Joint Oceanographic Institution's Deep Exploration of the Sea, JOIDES Resolution.

At Swansea, Kidd organised the merger of the Geology and Oceanography Departments to become the Department of Earth Sciences, prior to the University Grants Committee Earth Sciences Review. On transferring to Cardiff he established the Cardiff Marine Geosciences Research Group, one of the most active seagoing geological and geophysical groups in Britain.

His international stature and management skills were recognised by his Chairmanship of the Site Survey Panel for cruises of the JOIDES Resolution from 1989 to 1993, and most recently by becoming chair of the JOIDES Planning Committee 1994 to 1996. He headed the first JOIDES office to be established outside the United States at the University of Wales Cardiff.

There was no more dedicated individual to the cause of ensuring that marine geoscientists in the United Kingdom have access to the priceless Ocean Drilling Programme (ODP) resource. Kidd worked tirelessly to promote and support ODP science. Recently, British participation in this programme was called into question. Kidd gave outstanding presentations on the excitement and novelty of Ocean Drilling science to various review committees and the Natural Environment Research Council. It is now clear that British involvement is safe and that Rob Kidd deserves the accolades of the scientific community for the central role he has played.

On 4 June he was awarded the Major John Sachervell A'Deane Coke Medal by the Geological Society of London. This is awarded to those who show both excellence as scientists and have made in various ways major contributions to the community. No one better illustrated the attributes of a Coke medallist than Rob Kidd for his outstanding achievements in research and altruism on behalf of marine geosciences.

Robert Benjamin Kidd, marine geoscientist: born Milford Haven 17 September 1947; FGS 1967; Principal Scientific Officer, Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, Wormley 1973-84; Visiting Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California 1973-75; Professor of Geology and Head of Department of Earth Sciences, University of Wales Swansea 1986-89; Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Wales Cardiff 1989- 96; Professor of Oceanography and Head of Science Operations of the Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A & M University 1984-86; married 1970 Rosalie Daye (four sons); died London 9 June 1996.

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