Search site



Obituary: Jack Myers

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the recent death of Dr J O (Jack) Myers, former Lecturer in the Department of Mining and Mineral Engineering.

Born in 1925, Jack Myers first joined the University of Leeds as a student, completing his BSc in Geology (with Mathematics) in December 1945, then joining the staff of the Department of Mining (later to become Mining and Mineral Engineering) as a Research Assistant in January 1946. He went on to obtain his PhD in Geophysics (1958) within that Department.

Jacks expertise in geophysics and exploration geophysics was highly respected, both by his academic colleagues and by government and commercial bodies. His 1961 paper on Tracing the Boundary of the Concealed Coalfield of Yorkshire using the Gravity Method provided the essential academic basis for the discovery of the Selby coal deposits and throughout his career he was consulted by, and retained close working links with, organisations such as the National Coal Board, Swiss Aluminium Mining Ltd, and the Clay Cross Co. Throughout this time, Jack was passionately committed to field work and the exploration of the great outdoors; his knowledge of the topography, geology and geophysics of the Northern Pennines, in particular, was legendary. He was both a climber and a speleologist. He combined this scientific study of caves with spectacular magnesium flash cave photography, and became an enthusiastic member of the Cave Research Group and the British Cave Research Association. The Department mounted an exhibition of his photographs during the 1974-75 Yorkshire College Centenary Celebrations, and it is to be hoped that his photographic collections have been preserved.

In addition to his research interests and industrial links, Jack also taught undergraduate programmes within the Department (Prospecting and Applied Geophysics and Oilfield Geophysics and Oilfield Development) and an MSc in Applied Geophysics Research (Mining Geophysics); and he supervised a number of PhD students. He was an excellent and painstaking teacher at all levels, with an impressive dedication to his students and the development of his subject. Colleagues and students were always able to rely on his sound judgement and his determination not just to complete to the very highest standards any task he undertook himself, but also to motivate and support others in doing so.

After such an active early career, it seemed particularly tragic when, after a visit to the Kracow coal geophysics conference in 1959 he contracted a virulent form of polio, which disease, and ensuing complications, left him confined to a wheelchair. Inevitably, this severely restricted his activities, but, refusing to give in to despondency, Jack responded with typical determination. He lectured in the departmental basement labs, using the spiral staircase to the ground floor, which he could negotiate using his arms only. His fieldwork was conducted by proxy, through a succession of research students, helped enormously by his remarkably acute visual memory. He continued to deliver lectures, managing his energies carefully in order to avoid the difficulties of exhaustion. Academically, his focus moved from coal to fluorspar/lead mineralization. His photographic interests (pursued just as energetically from his electric wheelchair even in quite remote locations) also shifted, from caves to other features of the landscape including the study of Iron Age field patterns, strip cultivation and ancient road patterns through photography at low sun inclinations. He became a tireless promoter of disabled access to the countryside, and turned his ingenuity to the development and testing of equipment to support those with mobility problems. He had an excellent darkroom at home, adapted with all his gear mounted on castors, and he even re-engineered his garden into a series of graduated beds that he could cultivate from his wheelchair.

Jack took early retirement from the University in 1982, but continued for many years to pursue his photographic, campaigning and intellectual interests from his cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. He was widely respected by colleagues and students not just for the depth of his academic expertise, and his outstanding abilities as a teacher and researcher, but also for the cheerful pragmatism with which he approached any problem that he faced, and his enormous capacity for hard work, patience and concern for accuracy in every detail. In later years, he moved into a care home in the Halifax area, in order to be nearer his sister. A kind and good-humoured man, he will be remembered with great fondness by his many friends.

Published: 22 September 2008