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Wyndham Michael Edmunds 1941-2015

Hydrogeologist who shaped the development of hydrogeology in the UK over thirty years.

EdmundsMike Edmunds was born in Wolverhampton on 31 July 1941, elder son of Wyndham Baker Edmunds, bank cashier, and Irene Luffman, a teacher.  Attending the local grammar school, he studied languages at A Level, but decided he wanted to read geology and attended Liverpool University, which offered an ‘arts to science’ conversion course.  On graduation (1963), with Michael Atherton as his supervisor, he stayed to work on the contact metamorphism associated with the Ardara Pluton (Donegal).


In 1966 he applied to the Institute of Geological Sciences (now British Geological Survey). Offered a position in the newly reorganised Hydrogeological Department, he became one of a small group that was to shape the development of hydrogeology in the UK over the next three decades.  Mike was given the task of setting up a hydrochemical laboratory, and over subsequent years applied a growing range of chemical and isotopic techniques to build up an understanding of the processes controlling the composition and evolution of groundwater quality in British aquifers.  From 1967-74 he was a member of a team working in Libya, which led to a lifelong interest in semi-arid regions, where he pioneered the use of geochemical tracers to resolve groundwater recharge rates.

In 1970 he attended a symposium in Tokyo to present the early results of his work. There he was present at the birth of the Working Group on Water/Rock Interaction, which was to have a strong influence on his subsequent career.  Holding symposia every three years, membership of the group gave him the opportunity to meet and work with numerous international hydrochemists.  He became its Chairman (from 1989 to 2001).

Mike’s achievements were soon recognised and in 1986 he was promoted to an individual merit position, allowing him to concentrate on research, free from administrative duties. He was a great networker and was able to build large multinational projects with European co-workers where his early linguistic background was a tremendous advantage.


Mike retired from the Survey in 2001 but continued his scientific career with an appointment as Visiting Professor and Director of the Water Centre at Oxford University. Here he worked to develop a new Master’s programme in Water Science, Policy and Management.  Interdisciplinary in design, it celebrated 10 years in 2014 with 220 alumni from 50 countries. His outstanding achievements were recognised by his peers and he was awarded the Whitaker Medal by the Hydrogeological Group of the Geological Society in 1999, became the first British recipient of the Meinzer Award of the Geological Society of America in 2009 and in 2010 the International Association of Geochemistry awarded him the first Vernadsky Medal.

At Liverpool he had met and married a fellow student, Kathleen Reid, who was studying at Calder College, and from 1966 they lived in Maidenhead, moving to Blewbury in Oxfordshire in 1978.  Here he was active in village life, a keen singer, an enthusiastic collector of cacti and a devoted father to his four children and six grandchildren.  Mike was a modest, caring man who felt deeply about the inequalities in the world and for 20 years was a trustee of the charity Wells for India.

John Mather