Fellows' Lounge
2 Jan 2018

Professor Keith Atkinson CEng FIMMM 1942-2017

While on holiday in Devon, I received the very sad news that one of my oldest friends and colleagues from Camborne School of Mines (CSM), Professor Keith Atkinson, died after a long illness, which he bore with amazing spirit and fortitude.

Keith was already established as a geology lecturer at CSM when I started in 1974, but we immediately developed a lasting friendship due to his always cheerful personality, ready wit and a collection of anecdotes that Peter Ustinoff would have envied. As well as professionally, our friendship developed socially. Keith was a stalwart of the CSM cricket team, a useful medium pace swing bowler, who, in his self-deprecating manner, would amuse us at the start of each season by struggling to get into his cricket flannels, which had miraculously shrunk during the winter. As the season progressed, things would get easier, only for the process to be repeated the following year!

Keith was the host on my retirement from CSM in 1996 and, among his anecdotes, reminded me of an embarrassing episode when he and his wife Maureen joined us at the new Hall for Cornwall in Truro for a performance of the opera The Tales of Hoffmann. During the interval, Keith and I thought we might just have enough time to slip out to the nearby pub for a couple of pints, but unfortunately, on our return, the next act had just started, and the still unfinished Hall had extremely creaky floorboards. Our slow and noisy ascent to our seats was all the more embarrassing as it took place during the opera's great set piece, the aria Barcarolle!

Born in Port Talbot, South Wales, on 16 October 1942, Keith Atkinson was appointed a geology lecturer at CSM in 1969, becoming Vice Principal in the late 1980s. He became Head of CSM in 1994, and after the merger with the University of Exeter became Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University in 1997, where he was responsible for restructuring and for helping establish the University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

Through his research in geology, Keith was author and editor of two text books and of over 50 scientific articles in learned journals. Geologists around the world will be familiar with Ore Deposit Geology, co-authored in 1986 with fellow CSM geologist Richard Edwards. A past President of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, he was awarded their Bolitho Gold Medal for Services to Geology in 1998.

As well as being a renowned geologist, Keith also had a great interest in mineral processing, he and I even co-authored two papers for Minerals Engineering. He was a great public speaker, and when I organised the first of the annual Minerals Engineering conferences with CSM Associates, in pre-MEI days, it was Keith to whom I turned to present the opening address in Singapore. He also played a big part in Minerals Engineering ‘92 the following year in Vancouver, and at Minerals Engineering ‘93 in Cape Town.

Barry Wills, MEI