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Michael Cooper 1949-2015


In professional terms Mike Cooper is best described as a Civil Engineer who had a passion for geology.  He was as enthusiastic describing the complexities of geology and its impacts for structural engineers as he was teaching engineering geologists the finer points of soil mechanics.  During his 44-year career he worked with contractors, public engineers, universities and consultants.  He joked that he pursued a career in geotechnics because that was the subject he struggled with during his first degree, and he always liked a challenge.

After working for specialist contractors Soil Mechanics and West Yorkshire County Materials Laboratory, Mike took on a lectureship at the University of Southampton.  The move to academia presented new possibilities, including a six-month secondment to the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, starting a connection to Norway that continued throughout his career. 

After this experience Mike wanted more industrial engagement, so persuaded the University to enable him to take up a part-time secondment to consultants Gifford.  His talent for identifying key ground related risks based on the geological characteristics of a site, making these real to his colleagues, and then producing innovative design solutions made him an invaluable part of the Gifford team.

After a 19-year association with the University, he moved full-time to Gifford.  His impact, while at the University was substantial and more than a decade later Mike was regularly identified as a favourite lecturer and tutor by colleagues and clients alike.  This shows the passion that Mike brought to the marriage of geology and engineering disciplines, and he carried this forward as a trusted teacher and mentor of the growing team at Gifford. 

Mike never forgot his roots as a technical specialist and that his main function was to advise clients and colleagues on the best ways to manage ground-related risk.  He also brought a sense of enjoyment into the team, and always managed to mentor others, no matter how busy he was.  Eighteen months after Gifford was acquired by Ramboll, Mike retired from full time consulting and split his time between the UK and Norway, assisting with project delivery and, most importantly, the development of ground engineering skills with both Ramboll teams.

Mike’s project achievements are too numerous to list in detail; however in the CIRIA-sponsored Selbourne slope stability project, Mike used imagination and insight, leading to a BGS Prize Award-winning publication.  In the Gibraltar East Water Catchments stabilisation programme Mike used innovation to protect householders at the base of a 300-metre high slope. Mike was also particularly proud of his achievements on the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and Second Severn Crossing.

Mike’s professional legacy is a UK-based ground engineering team that numbers more than 50 engineering geologists and geotechnical engineers, based in five locations.  Mike also played a key role in the establishment of the Southern Geotechnical Group in the 1990s and the successful Geological Society Solent Regional Group.  Mike is survived by his wife Glynis, daughter Holly, and son Ashley.

Stephen L West