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Professor Richard Gilbert West FRS


Professor Richard West was the second director of the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research.

Richard West was born in May 1926 he began his career at the age of 18 in 1944 when he joined the army and spent time in India. On return to England, he came to Clare College, Cambridge in 1948 taking Botany and Geology at Part I. Although being tempted to take Geology for Part II, he decided to study Botany, for which he obtained First Class Honours and the Frank Smart Studentship. As a research student, he was supervised by Harry Godwin, Director of the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research and investigated the now classic study of the stratigraphy and palynology of the Middle Pleistocene interglacial lake deposits at Hoxne, Suffolk. He was awarded his PhD in 1954, shortly after he was elected a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. Richard become a lecturer in the Department of Botany in 1960, in 1966 he became Director of the Subdepartment, and Head of the Department of Botany in 1977. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1968 and has been awarded many medals and prizes, including the Lyell and Bigsby medals of the Geological Society and the Albrecht Penck medal of the Deutsche Quartarvereiningung. Richard retired in 1991.

Throughout his career he maintained and still today maintains a wide interest in Quaternary Science in general and the British sequence in particular. His research is mainly based on the understanding of interglacial and cold-stage palaeobotany and stratigraphy, but also sedimentation and periglaciation. As well as inspiring three generations of research students, he has published numerous reviews, over 120 papers and 9 books.

Coring at Histon Road

Subdepartment of Quaternary Research coring party at Histon Road, in Cambridge during the 1950s.  (lefet to right: Brian Seddon, Colin Forbes, Richard West and Ken Marr).


R.G.West panning for gold in the Yukon Territory, Canada in 1987.  Regrettably unsuccessful!

Easton Bavents

Three generations of Cambridge Quaternary scientists at Easton Bavents, Suffolk in 1988 on the QRA Easter Field meeting: left to right: Richard West, Phil Gibbard and Charles Turner. (photograph by M.J.C. Walker).

  Download a biography entitled: Richard West - an appreciation by Charles Turner and Philip Gibbard .

Opening of the R.G.West laboratory in the Department of Geography.