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David Charles Rex (1937 – 2021)

A meticulous geochronologist with a wicked sense of humour and great practical abilities

Dave RexDave Rex graduated with an MSc in geology from the University of Leicester and became involved in geochronology when he joined the Geological Age and Isotope Group in the Department of Geology in the University of Oxford. In 1967, he joined the Department of Earth Sciences (now the School of Earth and Environment) at the University of Leeds, UK as an Experimental Officer. He worked with Martin Dodson in the Geochronology Laboratory, adding potassium-argon facilities to the array of available dating techniques based on the decay of radioactive isotopes.

Argon dating

From the mid-seventies, Dave oversaw the operation of the 40Ar-39Ar dating method in the Geochronology Laboratory and was a key participant in several fundamental studies of the factors that influence the reliability of ages measured by isotopic methods. He went on to develop the facility into one that was in demand around the world, until his retirement in 1996. Over this time, Dave’s friendly but absolutely meticulous approach introduced many postgraduate students and academic visitors to the extreme care required in the preparation of pure mineral separates and the analysis of the tiny amounts of the noble gas argon that they contain. He was very generous with his time and patience, supervising research students in the laboratory, as well as in the interpretation and writing up of their results. His students and colleagues recall a wicked sense of humour and numerous pranks.

Dave’s upbringing on a farm led to great practical abilities. Whether in the laboratory or on expeditions, if something needed fixing, Dave was your man. The geographical spread of his work encompassed all the continents, including the Arctic and Antarctica, with particular focus on the Himalayan region, Africa and Greenland. As well as receiving samples from collaborators, Dave was an enthusiastic participant in expeditions to Greenland, the Karakoram, Chile and the Kola Peninsula; his long association with Greenland is reflected in his membership of the Arctic Club. He published over 100 papers, 40 of them with over 50 citations, and accumulated more than 5,000 citations overall.

Outdoor life

On retirement, Dave moved back to his native Herefordshire where he continued his enjoyment of the outdoor life with many walking trips, both with local walking groups at home and in Europe, the challenging Circuit of Mont Blanc being a notable example. He was a superb gardener creating beautiful gardens at his homes in Yorkshire and again when he returned to Herefordshire. He was also an excellent cook, making exceptionally good Pakistani curries. Dave maintained his lifelong love of music, particularly opera, and was a keen bridge player.

Dave died peacefully on 10 January 2021 at Bromyard Community Hospital, Herefordshire, aged 84 years. He is survived by his wife, Vivienne, who was also a member of staff in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Leeds.

By Bob Cliff