Obituary – Professor Jane Ann Plant CBE FREng CEng FIMMM

Fellows' Lounge
1 Sep 2016

Professor Jane Ann Plant CBE FREng FRGS FRSA FRSE FRSM CEng CGeol FIMMM FAEG FGS 1945–2016

Jane’s early career involved practical experience in field geochemistry and, through innovative R&D, resulted in newly accepted and consistent procedures for geochemical surveying. Her leadership led to these being taken up internationally and the resulting databases are now applied globally for mineral exploration as well as in other economic, health and environmental issues. 

Her applied geoscience research produced a unique understanding of metallogenesis and ore deposit models and the importance of these as a foundation for mineral exploration. She recognised the strategic value of minerals information and the construction of mineral resource inventories for responsible stewardship and securing a national competitive advantage. 

Her lifetime contribution to earth sciences was recognised by numerous offers of visiting professorships, honorary degrees, prizes and awards both at home and abroad, with her standing in world geoscience earning national recognition through the award of a CBE in 1997. 

Her membership of governing bodies within the international minerals industry, including advisory, research and learned organisations, as well as parliamentary and civil service boards and committees, allowed her to bring well-informed influence to bear concerning the environmental sustainability and strategic importance of the minerals industry. In the course of her career, she made a significant contribution to the public understanding of science and encouraged young people to engage in the subject. 

She was involved in many aspects of the business of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. The Institution was privileged to appoint Jane as its first woman president in 2001, allowing access to her extensive and invaluable network of connections with government, industry and academia. 

She was an exemplar in showing what young geoscientists, particularly women, could achieve with practicality, patience and tenacity. Arguably, given a little more insight by the establishment, she would have held higher office in public service. 

To conclude a lifetime commitment to the British Geological Survey, she served her final five years there as its Chief Scientist. In 2005, she moved on to Imperial College, UK, having been appointed as Professor of Geochemistry, a post she held until her sudden death at home on 4 March this year. Throughout this time, based on her very personal experience of recurring cancer over nearly 30 years, and from knowledge acquired of the relationships between chemistry, diet and cancer, again with the pioneering drive she demonstrated during her professional career, she applied her innate skills to the production and publication of innovative work on the issue. This included publication of a series of thoroughly researched books, as well as the establishment of an online support community for those affected by cancer. Her dietary advice for those with cancer was, and is, wholly evidence-based, as befits someone with Jane’s rigorous scientific background, and is widely used and valued by a great number of people dealing with cancer. 

Jane was also very devoted to her family and leaves behind her husband Peter, children Mark, Emma and Tom and several grandchildren. Her professional colleagues, family and friends can reflect on a lifetime of remarkable achievement by a truly distinguished scientist, particularly in view of the challenges posed by the social attitudes of her generation. 

Professor Gordon P Riddler BSc MBA CEng FIMMM