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Michael David Max (1942 – 2020)

An inspirational and big character whose work spanned the geosciences

Mike MaxAfter graduating in geology, chemistry and history from the University of Wisconsin in 1964, and acquiring a pilot’s licence, Mike went on to obtain an MSc from the University of Wyoming (1966) and PhD from Trinity College Dublin (1969), studying the Dalradian metasediments and their Paleoproterozoic basement in northwest County Mayo, Ireland.

Mike’s work was diverse, covering geology, geophysics, geochemistry, physical acoustics, information technology, gas hydrates, marine desalination and atmospheric drinking water.

Geological Survey

Working for the Geological Survey of Ireland (1969-1985), Mike studied Irish Precambrian and Lower
Palaeozoic rocks and discovered the Mannin Thrust, in Connemara, western Ireland. Working with Tony Barber, he recognized the Menai Strait Fault, which separates Anglesey from the mainland of north Wales, as a major shear zone terrane boundary.

Mike established a scuba-diving unit and investigated near-shore geology. While working with colleagues on Doonguddle rocks, northwest Galway Bay, Mike was fired at during gun practice by the Fisheries Protection vessel. He was a familiar figure at conferences, projecting a macho image with his broad shoulders and signature buffalo bill moustache.

International exploration

Between 1985 and 1999, Mike worked at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, DC, USA. Here he undertook geological and geophysical studies of the continental shelves of the Barents Sea, northwest
Norwegian and Greenland seas, and participated in geophysical research adjacent to Antarctica. Mike
developed a joint NRL-USGS research project on gas hydrates and was loaned as a consultant to Shell.

A secondment to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) at La Spezia, Italy (1991-1996) allowed Mike to further his appreciation of Italian opera. He assisted NATO Sonar projects through geological and geophysical analysis of continental shelves, was chief scientist on major cruises, co-organized with Urbino University an international meeting on geology and geophysics of the Sicilian-Tunisian Platform and organized and ran oceanographic and acoustic studies on an Albanian continental shelf project with the Italian Navy.

Returning to NRL after secondment, Mike studied the tectonics and crustal assembly of the Argentine
continental shelf, led research on natural methane hydrates, and joined the Department of Energy
select task force to develop a National Gas Hydrate Research Program (1997-1999). He assisted the
Senate Energy Committee to prepare the Gas Hydrate Research Act (2000).

As co-founder and Chief of Research at Hydrate Energy International Inc., (1999-2020), Mike developed consulting and research in gas exploration, investigating unconventional gas resources, natural gas hydrates, carbon capture and sequestration, marine desalination, and patent applications.

Mike became an Adjunct Professor in Petroleum Geology (Unconventional Energy Resources) at the School of Geological Sciences, National University of Ireland, University College Dublin, from 2012. He was a member of numerous professional organisations and authored over 300 publications, patents and gas hydrate books.

Big personality

Mike was born to Ruth and Oscar on 29 May 1942 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. He died on 31 May 2020 in Washington DC, USA. He had a big personality, and was inspirational and encouraging to many. His macho image concealed a cultured and considerate individual. He will be widely remembered and greatly missed by his wife Eleanor, daughter Rachel and sister Debbie, as well as by his friends and colleagues.

By Barry Long and John Winchester