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Tributes to Harry Elderfield

The following are a selection of tributes received following the announcement of Harry Elderfield's death on 19.4.16. Messages for inclusion may be sent to Simon Crowhurst (

Sad, tough day. This brilliant, gentle, humble man died yesterday. He will be greatly missed by everyone here in Cambridge and around the world. RIP Harry Elderfield. -Jason Day

I recall many planning meetings and conferences and such things with Harry. Decisions had to be made. Harry's voice was never the loudest in the room. It was generally the wisest. When he spoke, it was always worth listening. He had a quiet strength --- Alan Mix

With Harry's passing I have lost a trusted friend, colleague and mentor and the community has lost a gentle giant who tranformed marine geochemistry and palaeoceanography. He was heartfully cherished by his colleagues and will be sorely missed. -David Hodell

I felt extremely depressed when I learned that Harry has recently passed away, right after having started his (formal) retirement.In my eyes Harry belonged to the most gifted and highly esteemed scientists of our generation of Earth scientists. At the same time, he was one of the noble most personalities I have met amongst my colleagues, always prepared to listen, full of patience, to discuss and to help. We met many many times since I spent a sabbatical leave in Cambridge almost 30 years ago (as a guest and friend of Nick Shackleton), when he invited me for a luncheon in St Catherine's college, and subsequently, when we met at several conferences all over the world. In particular, we also spent together some nice days, when we were on a lecture tour in China 2007, both visiting Shanghai, later Xian. Please accept my deepest sympathy. We all shall really keep Harry in a top place in our memory. - Michael Sarnthein

We were very sad to hear the news that Harry Elderfield passed away last week. He was a true gentleman and an outstanding scientist who worked very closely with NERC over the years, particularly as a member of the NERC Science and Innovation Strategy Board (2005-2009) and more recently as Chairman of UK Ocean Acidification programme's advisory group. He will be sorely missed and we send our condolences to Harry's family. - Duncan Wingham, NERC Chief Executive

Harry Elderfield was Professor of Ocean Geochemistry and Palaeoclimate Research at the Godwin Laboratory, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University. He was recognised for his contributions with several notable awards including the Lyell Medal in 2003 and the V. M. Goldschmidt in 2013. Harry participated in the original international GEOTRACES planning workshop in Toulouse in 2003 and was a mentor for GEOTRACES scientitsts. Creative, passionate, deeply involved in understanding the behavior of trace elements in the modern ocean but also how they are imprinted in the sediment for paleo issues, Harry was a guide for most of us. His death is a profound loss. - Geotraces Website

What sad, sad news. I got to know Harry as an outstanding and visionary expert in the field of paleoclimatology and his role in bridging marine geology and ice core sciences cannot be overestimated. At the same time he was one of the most friendly, helpful and humble persons. Trying to establish new paleo-proxies myself, his famous "Elderfield-curve" for the development of new proxies always gave me new hope that all the time spent in the lab is not in vain. - Hubertus Fischer on behalf of the Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern

This is very sad to hear. Harry was such a good and open person to collaborate with, friendly and helpful on top of being the brilliant scientist he also was. He will be deeply missed.Please bring my condolances to the Department and to his friends and family. - Eystein Jansen, Bergen

Harry Elderfield: thanks for your great scientific vision and inspiring all of us in the fields of oceanography, climate change, paleoceanography, and paleoclimatology. Your passing is our huge loss. – Chuan-Chou (River) SHEN

I am shocked: He was talented, kind, and gentle. My scientific life was much richer because I knew him. - Steve Emerson, Seattle

I got to know Harry in 1976 when he visited Mike Bender at URI. Must have been a sabbatical. I was setting up Bender's new Micromass, and not having done anything like that before, I learned day by day. I remember Harry was easier to talk to than others and was tolerant of someone who didn't know any analytical chemistry. - Lloyd Keigwin,Woods Hole

I am very sorry. I have wonderful memories of times with Harry, and shall hold onto those. He was very kind to me, right from the beginning. Very sad. - Dan Schrag, Harvard

Am very saddened by Harry's death. I consider him to be both a great scientist and one of the really good guys in science and, you know, there are not that many of the latter. - Paul Baker, Duke

My sincere condolences for your loss. I think I speak from the hearts of all Utrecht-based paleoceanographers if I say that Harry was an example to all of us, not only because of his great science, but also his lovely personality. I have always very much enjoyed our personal interactions. The news was certainly also a shock to us. - Appy Sluijs, Utrecht

I feel as though I've lost my right hand. Harry and I held a number of research grants together since the late ?80s and the cores from those campaigns are now well-known by their acronyms BOFS, CHAT, WIND and RAPiD. He was my friend and collaborator, one to whom I could always turn for chemical advice and insight. Now I?m at a loss but can take comfort in the fact that he left behind a remarkable cohort of former research students and postdocs who will continue to take his science forward. If they can do that with the generosity and lack of ego that Harry displayed, then the science will be richer and the company of scientists enhanced by his having passed among us. - Nick McCave, Cambridge

I first met Harry when he visited MIT in 1987. Ever since, we maintained a running exchange about the state of marine climate proxy research. I learned a great deal from Harry and always appreciated his insights, lucid thinking and sense of fairness. I will miss his steady presence. -David Lea

I was sad and shocked to hear the news that Harry Elderfield passed away - one of the very few geochemists who truly valued foraminifera, in addition to being a great scientist as well as one of the nicest people with whom to cooperate. I will never forget our work on the Biogeochemical Ocean Flux Study (BOFS) project. -Ellen Thomas

At the University of Miami we were saddened to learn of the death of Harry. Miami has a special place in the history of the science of paleoceanography, which occupied much of Harry's later research. I was glad to see the link to his Emiliani lecture and hope this will provide a connection to the past for younger scientists in the field. - Peter Swart

Harry Elderfield represented the best in the Earth and Oceanographic sciences through the major advances during the past 50 years. His science, personality, humanity, wisdom and quiet determined strength shone so bright. As a young lecturer at Leeds University, he gave me the opportunity as his student to enter a life in the environmental sciences. For this I am truly grateful. I feel privileged to have had such a wonderful friend. Although I will never see Harry again, he remains within my heart, and I suspect that the same will apply to so many of his grateful students and colleagues. - Colin Neal

Geochemistry and Paleoceanography lost one of the most gracious, generous, rigorous, and kind scientists I've been lucky enough to know. He was one of those unique individuals that didn't speak a lot, but when he did, everyone listened. He touched so many lives and left behind a legacy of amazing science and scientists. That being said, Harry would be the last person to take any credit for his impact on the field. He led by example, which encouraged everyone he encountered to do their best. - Amelia Shevenell

It was a profound shock that I learned of Harry's death. We vividly remember his visit to Shanghai and his key-note talk to the International Paleoceanographic Conference here nine years ago. Harry enjoyed high prestige in the Chinese paleo-community, and his contributions will be remembered forever. Please convey our condolence to Harry's family. - Pinxian Wang

I am very sorry to hear of Harry's passing on, this is a grave loss. I held Harry in highest regards as an outstanding scientist and a great colleague who over the course of his career kept his humane outlook to life. I am glad I was given the chance to meet him and collaborate with him. My heartfelt sympathies go to his family. -Rainer Zahn

I first met Harry in 1998 when he came to WHOI to give a talk. It was wonderful to experience his genuine interest in what I was working on, which was an important confidence boost for a 4th-year graduate student. His kindness, humility, and support throughout my early career were pivotal in keeping me on the academic track. I'm so sad to say goodbye. - Thomas Marchitto

It as a pleasure to work, however briefly, with such a knowledgeable scientist, and such a nice man. I think everyone in the ice core community learnt a lot from his work, and enjoyed his company. -Eric Wolff

I am deeply saddened by the news that Harry left us on Tuesday. In almost every brief visit to Cambridge, Harry spared his time with me for discussions on science and on how to push forward ocean research in my university. I had hoped to formally have him as our advisor in our Institute of Ocean Research.Harry's passing is a great loss to our field. He will be remembered by many Chinese colleagues who have met him or have read his papers. I am unable to arrange my international travel as timely as before due to some new rules. So I shall not be able to come to Cambridge soon. When you see Marlene, please pass on our deepest condolence to her. -Liping Zhou

Very sad news - one of the greats, always a gentleman, supportive, and a great driver of innovation. We will miss you, Harry. My condolences to friends and family. -Eelco Rohling

I'd say hello and that I hope all's well in Cambridge, but, well, obviously it isn't. Harry was a giant among geochemists. I'm always amazed by how much of what I understand of the subject goes back to a conversation I had with him, a lecture he gave, or one of the multitude of key papers that came out of his group, and I don't think I am alone in feeling this way. Harry was also a riot to stumble down to the Eagle with on a Friday at 5pm. It's very sad and strange to think that he's not here anymore. Marlene and all of you in the lab and the department have my deepest condolences. - Christina De La Rocha

For nearly 10 years I was privileged and honored to closely work with Harry. I feel so lucky that I have met him. Thank you for all these wonderful past years. It is a big loss for our department and it will never be the same without him. Salima Souanef-Ureta

This is such sad news, he was a great man and gave me my first shot at being a scientist! So I am eternally grateful to such a brilliant, funny, kind man. Nothing but great memories of him and a sad loss to science. -Samantha Smith

Sad news indeed. RIP Harry - Mike Cook

Shocked! Sad. This is a huge loss. - Alan Mix on twitter

All the best of all of your team! My condolences to friends and family. - Catarina Cavaleiro

I benefited from his kind support early in my career. Brilliant and kind. - Jay T Cullen on twitter

Floored. Feels like I just saw him yesterday at AGU. A true gentleman and pioneer. He will be sorely missed.- Kim Cobb on twitter

Sad to hear that. -Gréta Björk

This is very sad to hear, all my condolences... - Marie Cavitte

So gentle and generous, indeed. Nobody else could ever have asked me to pick so many large and difficult foraminifer samples in the past years. We will all miss Harry - Maryline Mlenek Vautravers

That's very sad to hear. Thanks for passing on the news. - Andy Wilson

Tough day - Harry Elderfield passes. Such a brilliant mind, and a humble, gentle, generous person. - Peter de Menocal on twitter

Really sad news ... - Pallavi Anand on Twitter

Sad news. -Heather Johnstone

My condolences. Caroline Martin

How sad. He was a genuinely nice guy... - Gavin Schmidt on twitter

Such sad news. - Annette Shelford

Just writing to say how sorry I was to hear the news about Harry Elderfield - Kate Horan

Very sad news that Harry Elderfield has died - a great scientist, an outstanding leader of research, humorous, thoughtful and kind. We will miss him very much. -Simon Crowhurst

So sad to hear this news simon, just as I'm returning from EGU. Harry was a true inspiration and will be missed by everyone fortunate enough to have had their lives touched by him. I'm planning a trip to cambridge to give a talk in May, I now regret not having done this sooner. My thoughts are with the entire Godwin lab - Caroline McMullen

For a person who was a mentor and advisor that has passed away.

Knowing you is life changed
Memories are gifts

You were a gentle person
An intellectual giant

Ever kind and generous
There were different sides of you

You would show me
How to pick myself up

You helped me grow
He reminds me of you

I was always amazed
At what you saw

Thank you for sharing
Cups of tea

You are missed -Aradhna Tripati

JC089 was - thanks also to Harry- such a nice cruise and I am very glad I had the chance to meet him there and spend time with him. This is sad news. My condolescence, warm thoughts and compassion go to his family, friends and colleagues - Duygu S Sevilgen