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Beris Mary Cox (1948 – 2023)

An expert biostratigrapher who contributed immensely to British Geological Survey mapping projects

Beris Cox

Beris Cox died on February 19 2023 after living with leukaemia for many years. She was born in east London on 2 August 1948 and, after graduating in geology from Swansea University in 1969, was employed by the Institute of Geological Sciences (IGS), later renamed the British Geological Survey (BGS). Beris was initially appointed to Exhibition Road, London, where she was one of the very few women scientists at IGS. Most of her career was spent working on Jurassic macrofaunas, specialising in ammonites, Jurassic biozonation, and chronostratigraphy. Initially, Beris worked mainly on the Upper Jurassic but, as the BGS changed focus, the team dwindled and she eventually took on the whole of the Jurassic.

Left: Beris Cox. Photo courtesy of Mike Sumbler.

Early career

Significant early projects for Beris included special investigations for the Wash water storage scheme and the Department of Energy oil shale project. Alongside her official duties, Beris researched Callovian perisphinctid ammonites for her PhD, which was awarded by the University of London in 1981. Some of Beris’ most significant early papers are those written with Ramues Gallois, in which they introduced the concept of bed recognition and regional correlation in Jurassic mudstones by combining palaeontological, lithological, and sedimentological details.

Later career

In the early 1980s, Beris was briefly required to retrain as a palynologist at the Survey’s Leeds office, but soon transferred to Keyworth when mapping projects in southern England needed her macrofaunal expertise. At this time, Beris met Mike Sumbler, a BGS field geologist, who later became her partner and husband. Successful collaborations with BGS mapping teams continued until her retirement in 1998.


Beris had over seventy publications in journals, as well as BGS memoirs. Highlights include two major books in the Geological Conservation Review series on British Middle Jurassic and Upper Jurassic stratigraphy, written jointly with Mike Sumbler and John Wright respectively. Both were completed and published after her retirement.

Voluntary roles

Beris was very generous with her time and supported the wider geological community. She was an especially good reviewer and was an editor of Palaeontology until December 1999 and Monographs of the Palaeontographical Society from 2008 to 2018. Beris was an active and important member of the East Midlands Geological Society, the Geological Curators Group, and the Geological Society’s History of Geology Group (HOGG).

Beris co-supervised or unofficially mentored several PhD students and was very supportive of colleagues at BGS, especially new recruits. Women at the BGS remember her as a very approachable and kind role model. Beris’ ability to listen and provide good advice led to her appointment to the role of Welfare Adviser at BGS Keyworth in the few years before her retirement. Additionally, she was an enthusiastic participant in the sporting activities at BGS and gardener.

Remarkably, Beris carried on her scientific endeavours until a few weeks before her death, in particular, completing her contribution to the Society’s Jurassic correlation chart.

By Joanna Thomas