Obituary: Professor Barry Dawson, 80

Professor John Barry Dawson. Picture: contributed
Professor John Barry Dawson. Picture: contributed
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A WORLD-renowned scientist and geologist who travelled the globe researching volcanos has died, aged 80.

Professor Barry Dawson, an academic and lecturer at Edinburgh University, died on February 2 – just weeks after completing a research paper.

The popular professor led study groups across Africa including to Ol Doinyo Lengai, an unusual volcano in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, where lava fountains harden in mid-air then shatter like glass.

His writings added a fresh and stimulating understanding to the geology of the volcano and his detailed research added considerably to his standing in the profession.

Many former students at Edinburgh have paid tribute to his style of lecturing.

Dr Sally Gibson, now at Cambridge University, said: “Barry was generous with his time and the extraordinary breadth of his knowledge. He enjoyed teaching and sharing his knowledge and experiences with us.

“He was an exceptional scientist and keen to spot and nurture young talent. As a man, it was a pleasure to be in his company and benefit from his generosity and advice. For me, and many students, Barry was special.”

John Barry Dawson was brought up near Leeds and read geology at Leeds University. He went on to study his Phd at the Centre for African Studies in the city.

He worked as a geologist for the Tanganyika Geological Survey until he returned to the UK in 1964 to become a lecturer at 
St Andrews University.

After time at Sheffield University, he ended up in Edinburgh in 1989.

Professor David Pyle, of Oxford University, who accompanied him to Ol Doinyo Lengai, with a team of students in 1988, said he had fond memories of their time spent together and sharing a “wee dram” at the end of a hard day’s research.

He said the professor would deliver “impromptu tutorials on the alkaline igneous rocks as he watched the astonishing eruptive display of this bizarre volcano”.

He said: “Since that first field expedition, our paths crossed on many occasions. Barry was not only delightful company, he was hugely generous with his time, his expertise and his rock collection – a collection which must be one of the most important collections of both rocks from the mantle, as well as the East African Rift.”

Barry retired when he was made emeritus professor of geology at Edinburgh University but remained active by continuing his research.

Last year, he was
awarded the Collins Medal
of the Mineralogical

Barry is survived by his son and two daughters.