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Brian Douglas Hackman 1933-2015

International IGS/BGS geologist, fluent in eight languages, who worked widely on British Aid projects overseas.

syjBrian Hackman, who died on 5 November 2015 after suffering with dementia for several years, was an international geologist, with a passion for languages, eight of which he spoke fluently. 

He graduated from the Royal School of Mines in 1955 and after two years in the Royal Engineers, he joined the Colonial Service.  His first job was in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate where he became an authority on the geology of Guadalcanal mapping over 3000 square kilometres of rugged, thickly forested terrain with a complex, island-arc sequence of rock types.  This work led to the award in 1971 of a PhD by the University of Western Australia. 

Mapping and exploration

He spent 10 years in Solomon Islands and, in 1972, chose to travel home via Ethiopia where he was seriously injured in a plane crash.  After several months in hospital he joined the Institute of Geological Sciences, as the British Geological Survey was then known, and was immediately seconded back to the Department of Geological Survey, Solomon Islands where he eventually became Chief Geologist. 

He stayed with IGS/BGS for just over 20 years working mainly on British Aid projects overseas.  After a short, geothermal investigation in St Lucia he became the leader of the first phase of a mapping and geochemical exploration project in the Western Solomons.  Most of the team had very little experience of the harsh terrain and Brian’s knowledge was invaluable in helping them to adapt. 

In northern Kenya Brian led The Samburu-Marsabit Project to map and explore 100,000 square kilometers of metamorphic rocks of the Mozambique Belt and overlying Cainozoic volcanics.  The project was commended by an independent review body as significantly contributing to Kenya’s economic growth in its mineral sector. 

Towards the end of his time with BGS Brian’s skill with languages was recognized and he was posted first to Malaysia and then to Indonesia to assist local geoscientists with the writing and computer editing of technical reports. 

He was attached to the Geological Survey of Malaysia to set up an editorial and publications unit and to help train counterparts to run it.  Brian became a prominent and well-liked member of the Survey, quickly adopting a role of father-figure because of his willingness to listen to his counterparts and other Survey staff when they faced problems.


Brian’s final overseas assignment was to a hydrocarbon assessment project in the Indonesia Research and Development Centre for Oil and Gas Technology (LEMIGAS).  A multidisciplinary study of the North Sumatra Basin (NSB) was the principal focus and Brian’s role was to enhance the writing and editing skills of LEMIGAS staff.  His final contribution, and legacy, was to edit and see through to publication the two-volume Project Report. 

Wherever he found himself, his warmth, coupled with his wit, skill as a storyteller and a well-developed sense of humour, touched people and he is missed by many. 

By Rodney Walshaw with the assistance of David Bate, Clive Jones, Roger Key, Sandy Macfarlane, John Ridgeway and others.