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Tributes to Nick Shackleton

The following are a selection of tributes received following the announcement of Nick Shackleton's death on 24.1.06. Messages for inclusion may be sent to Phil Gibbard (

"We have lost a good friend and colleague. And the World has lost one of its most outstanding geoscientists". - Sylvi Haldorsen.

"my best wishes to the family" - Denis-Didier Rousseau.

"I knew Nick a little and liked him very much" - Mark Billinge.

"We send our condolences to all who worked with him and who will miss him especially sorely". - Valerie A. Hall

"Nick was a close colleague, always freely offering help, a supremely talented person on so many fronts, from
science to music. We will miss him sorely". - Tom Cronin

"Today, in my stratigraphy class, I had finished explaining cycle-strat, which included a slide of Nick on one of my ODP legs, in the process of analyzing Paleogene cycles. It was quite ironic to return from class to receive your e-mail. - Jim Ogg

"I am very sorry indeed". - Jim Rose.

"what very sad news. A huge loss! - Martin Head.

"It is really, really sad news. I didn't know Nick all that well but he was a giant of British Quaternary science and the world will be the poorer for his passing". - Mike Walker

"I am shocked to hear this. - Clive Oppenheimer

"That's very sad news - I didn't really know he was even close to this, although I hadn't seen him for quite a while". - Keith Richards

"I am APALLED to hear of the death of Nick Shackleton. He made such a truly FUNDAMENTAL contribution to understanding the Pleistocene, it is
impossible to understand that he is no longer among us. We in New Zealand will be mourning him as much as his colleagues and friends in Cambridge. His name will live forever among world geologists. With greatest sympathy". - Alan Beu

"I'd be grateful if you could pass on my condolences" - Chris Glaister

"My condoleances to his family and close colleagues". - Kim Cohen

"This is very sad news". - Brad Pillans

"Thank you for this tragic information. This is a real loss for Quaternary geology!" - Jan Lundqvist

"I appreciate much that I have had a chance to know Nick". - Leszek Marks

"Researchers of the Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, with a greater regret have conceived news about death of Professor Sir Nick Shackleton. Life and work of Nick Shackleton represent an example of disinterested service to a science. His outstanding works for a long time will keep the urgency, and his name remains in history of Earth Sciences. We deeply grieve over untimely loss of the remarkable person and scientist Professor Sir Nick Shackleton and we feel deep sympathy to his relatives and friends." - Director of the Geological Institute Professor Dr. M.G. Leonov, Academician Yu.G. Leonov, Dr. Yu.O. Gavrilov, Dr. K.T. Degtyarev, Dr. Yu.V. Koryakin, Dr. M.N. Alekseev, Dr. I.A. Basov, Prof. Dr. Yu.B. Gladenkov, Dr. E.A. Vangengeim, Dr. A.E. Dodonov, Dr. V.A. Krasheninnikov, Dr. M.E. Bylinskaya, Dr. L.A. Golovina, Dr. M.V. Sotnikova, Dr. A.S. Tesakov, Prof. Dr. V.G. Trifonov

"Nick's mentorship for us and many other friends and colleagues had an immense influence for our current views on marine biostratigraphy and paleoceanography". - Jan Backman and Isabella Raffi

"Nick Shackleton was both a monumental scholar and someone who offered unstinting encouragement to the younger generation of paleoclimatologists. His leadership in every aspect of our field will be sorely missed. I feel privileged to have known and worked with him". - David Lea

"I have lost not only my mentor, but also a very close friend. In palaeoceanography we shall continue the many great fields that Nick pioneered". - Heiko Pälike

"What a legacy he left. But I will always think of him be-sandledly cycling across Parkers Piece in whatever the weather. He will never leave the Cambridge landscape for me. Can't believe he has really "gone", but then he never really will as he was unforgetable and uncategorisable. Everyone will have their own special story or two about him. Maybe a few more. Just glad to have known a bit of him at times". - Alex Chepstow-Lusty

"Knowing and working with Nick Shackleton for the last three and a half decades has been one of the great rewards of my career in Quaternary research. Nick was an outstanding and dedicated scientist, and his work was both fundamental and innovative. News of his death had a very personal impact, for he was a good friend and a true gentleman." - Steve Porter

"Certainly, Nick Shackleton was THE pioneer in our field of paleoceanography and marine paleoclimate research because of his great perspectives, his vision for new techniques, and his unbribable scientific judgement. However, we also were intime friends in the field of divine musics, where he was a master in human expression. We all shall really miss you, Nick !" - Michael Sarnthein

"I was deeply shocked by the sad news that Nick Shackleton passed away. He was the person who directly helped China to develop paleoceanographic studies, and he provided the isotope data for our first work on the South China Sea. As Advisor, Nick was helping us to prepare the next year ICP-9 in Shanghai. All Chinese paleo-community will miss Nick as our best friend and colleague. Please express all our sincere sorrow to Nick's family." - Wang Pinxian

"It was very sad to hear the news yesterday that Nick S has died. It is a great loss to the paleo-community, which he has been so fundamental in establishing and developing, and of course to the Earth Sciences in Cambridge for which he has been a cornerstone. I think also that his openness and keen interest in introducing young researchers to his research networks and helping in many ways to get them established has meant a lot to the status and breadth of paleoceanography and paleoclimatology globally. On the personal side he has been extremely important for my own development, as a friend, mentor and colleague. I think much of what we have achieved here would not have been possible without him as a door opener and supporter. There are many here in Bergen who are sad by these news". - Eystein Jansen

"I am deeply touched by that information, as Nick has been for me, since I started as a student in paleoceanography (1969), a benevolent and constently supportive 'uncle', always reincouraging. I am probably one of the few first young scientists who benefited directly from his help. No words, but a real complicity. Since, our relationships stayed always relax and mutually respectful, with a deep but rarely expressed friendship. I followed with much sorrow his illness, enjoying with him the times of relapse..." - Laurent Labeyrie

"Nick was the best of us and showed us all how science should be done: openly, critically, carefully and with his own unique dash of brilliance. I still can not believe that my mentor has gone, without telling him how much his wisdom meant to me and many others". - Mark Maslin

"I am desperately saddened by Nick's death. Only three months ago we were very delighted to celebrate his award-winning of the Blue Planet Prize in Tokyo. His death is too fast for himself, for you and for us. I expected to see him again at least one year later. In my room he is smiling in the picture at the Blue Planet party. I miss him very much, because I was one of the most close his friends in Japan since 1973. We lost a big star in our paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic community. Although Nick's death is unacceptable sadness for us, we must believe that he
has a peaceful rest forever". - Tad Oba

"Nick was an amazing Person. A giant for Science he lets us stronger to continue with the job; a true friend we miss him".- Maryline Vautravers

"All of us at the Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences were deeply saddened to hear that Professor Sir Nick Shackleton died last night. Although we knew he was ill, we were taken by surprise by his sudden deterioration. Professor Shackleton is a worldwide renowned scientist. His leadership within and influence on the development of Ocean Science, Quaternary Science and Global Change Science, and the international respect for his work, cannot be overstated. Many of us have been fortunate to benefit from his wise and numerous inputs through his international academic activities. He will be sorely missed in the scientific community". - Guo Zhengtang, Director

"I am so very sorry to hear of Nick's untimely passing. He was an inspiration to me, and a generation of Quaternary scientists, standing head and shoulders above us all in terms of his insights and acumen. His impact on our understanding of earth history was simply immense and his loss is a blow to all who knew and admired him. His talents extended far beyond Quaternary science, to music, history and art. He was a true Renaissance man and the world is a poorer place without him". - Raymond Bradley

"I first met Nick at a CLIMAP meeting at Lamont while applying to graduate school and subsequently at Woods Hole when he flew in to give a lecture to our Marine Sediments class. Nick was always remarkably encouraging to graduate students. When I arrived at Lamont as a post-doc and then as an Associate Scientist, Nick always made a point to make a side stop on his way through the core lab to discuss science. He encouraged me to work on various aspects of Cenozoic paleoceanography. Nick was certainly a great scientists and one of the fathers of paleoceanography. But it is his human side as a great mentor for students and young scientists that made him truly great. I will miss him". - Ken Miller

"Nick had given me a lot of support in my secretaryship of Inqua. I hadn't really known him well before that. i will miss his encouragement and advice. He was great fun in Hong Kong and knew the restaurants!" Pete Coxon

"Pinxian told me Nick's passing away by an email three days ago. Now I regret that I had no courage to say hello to him in Biarritz in 2004 though I was so close to him then, because that was the only time I could face him. I benefited greatly from his publications and valuable dataset, which lead me to march on the way he pioneered. I once wrote many emails to him for questions without any expectation of getting a reply because I know he was very busy, but he did replied with cares and satisfactory answers! He is busy now in the other world, for his science, I am certainly sure! Nick lives in our heart forever!" - Jun Tian

"I would like to express my deepest sympathy. It is great loss for Quaternary also". - Alberta Bitinas

"Apart from Nick's enormous contributions to marine isotope stratigraphy and Quaternary Science in general, he was an effective committee man who set about transforming INQUA with insight and enthusiasm. I was privileged to serve as one of INQUA's Vice-Presidents and as Nick's deputy during that period. His legacy will long continue in the new face of that great Union as well as in the way in which he, almost single-handedly, revolutionzed a key facet of its science". - Tim Partridge

"The many friends and admirers of Nick at the Department of Geology of the University of Padova have been deeply touched by the unexpected bad news arrived this week. Nick has been visiting with us several times inspiring generously new ideas and research projects. Because of his excellence in Science and of his cooperation with the Department of Geology, the University of Padova delivered a Laurea Honoris causa in Geology to Nick in 2002. Professor Vincenzo Milanesi (Rector of the University), Vittorio De Zanche (Head of the Department of Geology), and Domenico Rio share the sorrow of the family and the science community for the loss of a Great of Science and a friend". - Domenico Rio

""Nick was my guide in Palaeoceanography, always honest and direct, this brilliant, reserved and a little bit eccentric man opened a window into his heart and we became friends over the years. We will all miss him dearly, not just in science but as our mentor or colleague and friend...he showed us that in adversity we must keep on fighting, as he did the last years. He will always be an inspiration and an example to me. I will keep him fondly in my memory sitting at his microscope, with his long hair, brown sandals and wooly jumpers or at home with his beloved cat. Now he is in peace, and will stay like this in our hearts" - Lucia de Abreu

"I am Luigi Magistrelli from Italy, clarinet player, clarinet teacher at the Milan Conservatory and clarinet collector. I feel really sad hearing about Mr Shackleton's death. He did so much for the clarinet, his collection was something amazing,incredible! All the clarinet world should be very grateful to him for what he did! His knowledge about clarinet history was unique.He was a nice, kind and incredible person! He was so generous giving me his Uebel basset horn for the recording of the Archduke Variations. I met him a few times in his house and he also was in my house, where I interviewed him for an Italian magazine. His memory will be remain for ever, and I suppose not only in the clarinet world!" - Luigi Magistrelli

"I was much saddened to learn of Nick's passing. He was a great scientist, musician, and gentleman, and a good friend. My symapthy to his family". - Bill Hay

"Nick was a great scientist with a unique combination of talents and a razor sharp ability to assess complicated data. This kept him at the peak of international science for many decades, although somehow he managed to appear on a level with the lowliest student who approached him with results to discuss. I studied for a PhD with Nick, and subsequently sailed with him, and we worked together on a variety of projects. On a personal level, I will miss him very much". - Paul Pearson

"I worked for Nick as a lab technician from late 1975 to 1978. He was always inclusive, ready to share his thoughts about the research and feed back on his many overseas trips and conferences. I was just sorting foraminifera under the microscope but with Nick it was inspiring to be part of the world of climate research. It was wonderful to meet him again in 2004 at the 30th anniversary event, and I am very sad to hear of his death". - Quentin Given

"Nick possessed, in a profound way, the gift of scientific reasoning and also of music which he liberally shared with others and thus influenced our culture. He gave so much. Our family misses him". - Jim Kennett

"Nick's impact on our field was both intellectual and humanitarian, as so many have written. He played a very special role in my personal career. I will miss him". - Christina Ravelo

"Since 20 years, Nick's contributions to many fundamental palaeoceanographic issues have motivated me to get the best out of my own work. He has always been some kind of a scientific father to me, which I will greatly miss. My condolences to his family and friends". - Lucas Lourens

"Working in Nick's lab in the 1980's remains one of the most scientifically exciting times of my life. I well remember when the 'breakthrough moment' came, and he and Nick Pisias went out for champagne - having just demonstrated, using the Cambridge mainframe to crunch the numbers generated by Mike Hall's mass spectrometers - that the link between Milankovitch forcing and the succession of the Quaternary ice ages was indeed carbon dioxide flux in the atmosphere. Almost every aspect of the current debate about future global warming hinges on that one, seminal, moment. The world of geology has lost one of its greatest figures". - Richard Corfield

"Nick was a both a friend and an inspiration to me. He will be sorely missed". - Carrie Lear

"I was deeply saddened to hear that Nick passed away. The voice of a great pioneer in paleoclimatology has been silenced, but the discipline will feel his impact for many decades to come. I was fascinated by his visions and tremendous insights into the challenges we were all attempting to tackle. It is with joy that I recall my discussions with him. His wisdom was of great guiding help for me". - Ralf Tiedemann

"I read Nick Shackleton's articles with admiration in my home in South America. One day, during a rare visit to London with my wife and daughter, I finally met him in Foyles' where we were both rummaging through the clarinet chamber music. I later visited Nick and his wife in Cambridge on two opportunities. I was able to explore only a fraction of his amazing clarinet collection, unique in the whole world. On both my visits, Nick invited a circle of friends and personally cooked delicious meals for his guests while sharing his wisdom and friendship. He advised me to develop a design based on the legendary Fritz Wurlitzer Reform Boehm and helped me in the project by sending a pair of those extraordinary instruments to my Santiago workshop. I feel privileged to have known Nick Shackleton ...he will be greatly missed". - Luis Rossi, clarinettist and clarinetmaker.

"On behalf of everyone at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, I express deepest regrets at the news of Nick Shackleton's passing. He was a great friend and colleague to so many here at Lamont, and we greatly enjoyed his company just a year ago when he was awarded the Vetlesen Prize here at Columbia University. Earth, Ocean and climate science has lost a great intellect and a great leader". - Mike Purdy

"Nick was friend, mentor, and inspiration to me. I'll miss discussing new scientific results with him - and also books, essays, cheeses, sumac, and chutneys. He appreciated it when I'd bring over new students and postdocs to meet him, encouraging them to interact with him about their work. I'm deeply saddened that he is gone". - Aradhna Tripati

"Our sincere condolences to Nick Shackleton's family" - The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society

"We sadly participate to the sorrow of the family and collegues of Nick Shackleton who passed away prematurely leaving a sense of void, of emptyness. An innovative scientist, a dedicated teacher and a hard worker, he had a strong influence on more than two generations of Earth scientists, and played a fundamental role in developing a new branch of integrated sciences, called palaeocanography. Having known him for over thirthy years, since the early days of the "big circus" of the Ocean Drilling Program, we remember his fights for the now legendary "Neogene Transects", the influence he had on INQUA (the first chairman ever working at sea instead of land), the inspiration he gave to the International Commission on Stratigraphy insisting to select as Global Reference Sections those where the astronomical forcing is clearly expressed. We will miss him who combined scientific accomplishements with other intellectual interests such as music". - Maria Bianca Cita and Isabella Premoli Silva

"It is a great loss for the Quaternary Sciences, the world's scientific community and the international reputation of Cambridge Quaternary. I guess it is now for the 'new generation' to build on Nick's scientific wisdoms and moving forward". - Andrea Moscariello

"Nick Shackelton´s contribution to paleoceanography and paleoclimatology were obvious from the early days of CLIMAP when he wandered frequently across the Atlantic to visit colleagues at Lamont. The symbiosis of Nick with CLIMAP contributed tremendously to the success of the project and although there were many lures to go to the US he remained attached to Cambridge and Europe fostering much original and novel research. He will be remembered for ever!" - Jörn Thiede

"We are very sorry to hear about the sad news of Nick's death. He was an outstanding colleague, closely commited with our Institute. He was moreover a good friend. We are going to miss him. Please receive our deepest sympathy and pass it on to the family." - Institut d'Astronomie et de Géophysique Georges Lemaître (UCL-ASTR), Louvain-la Neuve.

"I am still stunned by the loss of Nick Shackleton from our midst. Everyone who has come in contact with him has benefitted from that association intellectually, musically, and humanly. While preparing to write up a small introduction to his being awarded the Ewing Medal a few years ago, I asked him what he was most proud of in his scientific career. He replied that it was the help and encouragement he had been able to give young scientists over the years. As you read through the many brief tributes to this great man, you quickly realize that this proudest accomplishment was in no way a boast. He has both directly and indirectly mentored a large cadre of young (and not-so-young) scientists, and in so doing inspired us all". - Ted Moore

"Nick was obviously a huge influence on our understanding of the Quaternary. In the ice core community, as we finally started reaching further back in time, everywhere we went, Nick had laid the groundwork with his exquisite analyses of the datasets". - Eric Wolff

"I was very sad to hear of the death of Nick Shackleton, a world scientist, yet not too grand to spend time discussing the finer points of one of his Quaternary Discussion Group lectures with an undergraduate of mine who had developed a particular interest in climate change". - Colin Whiteman

"'I am deeply saddened to hear of Nick's death. I really enjoyed working with Nick as his secretary from 1990-1994 and never ceased to be amazed at his capacity for work. He could fly in from the States in the early morning would still somehow have the energy to give lectures at meetings in London. His death is a huge loss to both the scientific and music communities. I am so glad that Mike Hall and others arranged the celebration of their work together last year so that many of us were able to see Nick again before his untimely death". - Jenni Tokens

"I was deeply saddened to hear that Nick passed away. I knew him only for a few years, and I am very frustrated to think I will not be able to see him again and to discuss science with him. He had a so clear vision of the scientific challenges we are facing, and at the same time, he kept his capacity to go into the technical details. I will never forget the last time I met him at EGU in Vienna in 2005. We talked about Quaternary chronologies in a very friendly discussion. When he left, he simply said "it was good to see you" with a very sincere and friendly smile. This image stayed in my mind since that moment, and I was very impatient to see him again at EGU 2006 to tell him our recent exciting progresses on ice-core chronologies". - Frédéric Parrenin

""It took me weeks before I got to writing a tribute - I was too sad to write down something eloquent, and so many people have expressed themselves so much better than I can do. Nick was unusually insightful, so good in pinpointing the weak spot in arguments even if not in his specialty, that not just we as persons but our field of science has been diminished with his passing. I will always look back to my time in Cambridge as some of the best years of my life, because of Nick's presence". " Ellen Thomas

"It was great to see the tributes that you have collected on the Quaternary website for Nick. He had such a profound effect on so many people's lives and work. Nick was a wonderful geologist. He understood the geological record from the elements of sedimentation to the physics of the Earth's orbit. He knew about timescales, how to develop them and the implications of changing them. He understood the mathematics of time series analysis, and could tell by looking at a geological record on paper what its spectral analysis would look like. He had a profound understanding of ocean circulation and chemistry. His attention to detail was astonishing. It was difficult or impossible to find an area of geology in which he did not have something significant to contribute. It was those huge reserves of insight, ability and determination that gave Nick success at every project. He sometimes seemed to people to be formidable and stern - but he was always laughing at himself (and at other people). He certainly didn't want to waste time, but there was a reason why he placed such a high value on it - he could do so much with it. We're all going to miss Nick. In many ways the research community has not caught up with his ideas, and may not do so for decades. It seems likely that he will be ranked among the greatest of the geologists of all time. We were lucky to know him." - Simon Crowhurst

"I am very sad to hear of Nick Shackleton's death. Nick was my acoustics lecturer at Cambridge in the 1970s. I subsequently got to know him thru his unrivalled collection of clarinets - as far as I am aware the most comprehensive of its kind in the world including public collections. A quietly spoken man whose every comment seemed to illuminate assumption and doubt with the rigour of his razor-sharp intellect, he was positively the fount of all wisdom about clarinet history and design and a very capable player of clarinets and basset horns of all kinds. He loaned me instruments on several occasions and I once arrived moments too late to bid for some antique instruments which it turned out he had bought. His generosity in allowing me to purchase the lot subsequently ('as long as you actually use them!') said much about Nick. I was aware that he was held in the highest esteem as a scientist, but just how much he was valued and will be missed by the scientific community is clearer from the warmth of these tributes. Clearly subsequent generations and governments would do well to demonstrate a commitment to his legacy in the seriousness with which they grapple with climate change". - Nicholas Cox (Principal Clarinet Royal Liverpool Philharmonic)

Climate and ozone at the dawn of the third millennium, Brussels, May 1996

njs 96
Nick Shackleton - One of the most prestigious geoscientists of all times (photograph A.Berger 1996)

Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton, Nick, died on January 24, 2006, at the age of 68.

Nick has been at the forefront of research in paleoclimate and has remained one of the most influential and brilliant scientists in this field since the late 1960's when he started to develop the techniques required for high resolution isotope stratigraphy. These techniques were fundamental in allowing to obtain the first high resolution isotope records showing the history of ice-sheet fluctuations during the Quaternary (Shackleton and Opdyke, 1973, 1976). The reconstructed glacial-interglacial cycles were not only more numerous than supposed previously but also matched the long-term variations of the astronomical parameters. The paper, he co-authored with Jim Hays and John Imbrie in Science 1976, now a citation classic and one of the most important papers in Quaternary research of all times, showed that the variations in the Earth's orbit and axis of rotation are the pacemaker of the major climatic changes during the Quaternary, a paper which for the first time validated the "Milankovitch" hypothesis.

Actually, Nick devoted most of his life to the investigation of the relationship between orbital forcing and climatic changes. He was particularly influential in the development of high resolution astronomically tuned timescales for geological records, the re-evaluation of the Bruhnes-Matuyama geomagnetic polarity reversal (Shackleton, Berger and Peltier, 1990) and the investigation of high-frequency climate changes during the last glacial cycle. More recently, the success of the Quaternary isotope sequences convinced him to extend his research into the Neogene (and even the Paleogene). His effort contributed to the determination of an unprecedented continuous high resolution time scale for the last fifteen million years (Shackleton, Weedon and MacCave, 1999). One of his last major contributions, published in Science 2000, clarifies a long-standing puzzle of the phase-relationship between the astronomical forcing, the ice sheets, carbon dioxide concentration and ocean temperature.

Throughout his career, Nick advised a large number of scientists at all levels and participated in numerous commissions in charge of clarifying the Cainozoic stratigraphy. His role in INQUA, where he was President from 1999 to 2003, was particularly influential leading this Union to become a full member of the International Council of Scientific Unions in 2005.

In view of such accomplishments, it is not surprising that Nick received the most prestigious awards allocated to geosciences : the Blue Planet Prize of the Asahi Glass foundation (2005) and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences(1995). He was Fellow of the Royal Society, Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, and Honorary Doctor of the Dalhousie, Stockholm and Padova Universities. He was invited to deliver many prestigious lectures and was awarded a Knighthood by the Queen Elizabeth II for "services in the Earth Sciences" in 1998.

Nick was not only a renowned scientist but also a brilliant clarinettist. His collection of clarinets is unique in the world (even more than his scientific work, he told me once!). One of his great pleasures was to perform in dedication to his friends each time he had the opportunity to do it.

Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton was definitely one of the greatest geoscientists of all times. But most of us loose also Nick, a good friend.

André Berger, Honorary President of EGU

download Nick Shackleton an appreciation by Denis-Didier Rousseau - opens in Powerpoint for Mac or PC pps.