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Remembering Dr Derek Gobbett 1934-2016

(by Mike Horne FGS)

Derek Gobbett was born and brought up in Essex. He studied for his first degree in Geology at Cambridge University. After National Service in the army he returned to Cambridge to study for his PhD on the topic of Carboniferous and Permian brachiopods of Svalbard and published an often cited paper about them in 1963.

Derek worked in Malaya from 1961 to 1968 lecturing in palaeontology and stratigraphy at the University of Malaya and established their palaeontology collection. He was a founder member and the first Secretary of the Geological Society of Malaysia. He edited the “Geology of the Malay Peninsula: West Malaysia and Singapore” which was published in 1973.

He then returned to Cambridge University to work as a Senior Research Assistant in the Geology Department from 1968 to 1972. Derek then taught A level geology at Solihull Sixth Form College until he retired. At that time he was also an active member of the Black Country Geological Society and the Earth Science Teacher Association, forming and chairing the Field Work Committee. Justin King (the chief executive of Sainsbury’s) (McGavin 2005) was inspired by Derek’s teaching recording that “Dr Gobbett was slim, with a scraggy beard: exactly what you would expect a geology professor to be. We called him the Mountain Goat …the reason why he is my most memorable teacher is that he took a class of pupils who had never done the subject before and enthused them.”

 Derek retired to the Yorkshire Wolds, first living at Wetwang, then moving to Foxholes and finally to Driffield. He joined the Hull Geological Society in 2002 and was a Committee Member from 2005 to 2008 and an editor for Humberside Geologist.  He was an enthusiastic helper with many of our research projects including our research at the North Cave Wetlands and North Newbald. He was an active member of the Flamborough Quaternary Research Group and the Bisat Research Project. He was fascinated by the geomorphology of the Wolds landscape, leading walks for the Society and Yorkshire Geology Month. He published an updated list of Chalk pits in the Wolds, started to recognise sink-hole and doline features and recorded the occurrence of erratics on the tops of the Wolds as evidence of pre-Devensian glaciations.

Derek Gobbett

He was also an active member of the Rotunda Geology Group and the Driffield U3A Geology Group as well as being a local recorder for the British Trust for Ornithology.

It is strange that many different groups of geologists referred to Derek as a being a mountain goat, but there was probably a good reason – a few years ago at South Landing a woman approached the Flamborough Quaternary Research Group saying she was going to call the coast guard because an elderly gentleman had fallen halfway down the cliffs – we assured her that it was OK because he was a geologist who had climbed up to collect specimens!

Margaret Gobbett has donated some of Derek's books and archives to the Society.

References & Bibliography–

Gobbett D 1963 Carboniferous and Permian brachiopods of Svalbard. Norsk polarinstitutt. Skrifter.

CR Jones, DJ Gobbett & T K Kobayaski 1966 Summary of the fossil records in Malaya and Singapore 1900 to 1965.

Gobbett D 1968. Bibliography and index of the geology of West Malaysia and Singapore iii, 152 pp. & map Bulletin of the Geological Society of Malaysia no 2

Gobbett D 2000 St Austin and the Fairy: a tale of two RIGS

Gobbett D 2015 A summary Cenozoic history of the Yorkshire Wolds

Gobbett D 2015 Tectonic structures in the Chalk of the northern part of the Yorkshire Wolds

Gobbett D J & C S Hutchinson (eds) 1973. Geology of the Malay Peninsula: West Malaysia and Singapore

McGavin H 2005. Dr Gobbett Was Slim, With A Scraggy Beard… The Times Educational Supplement April 29, 2005


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