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Neville Seymour Haile, 1928-2004

Neville Seymour Haile graduated with First Class Honours at Oxford University in 1948. He was appointed Geologist in the newly established Geological Survey Department in the British Territories in Borneo and arrived in Kuching on October 4 1949 following four weeks' mapping with the Geological Survey of Great Britain in the Yorkshire - Derby Coalfield area and a short course on photogeology at the Royal School of Mines. He commenced work investigating the Silantek Coalfield in west Sarawak. He subsequently made outstanding contributions to our geological knowledge of Borneo, beginning in 1954 with his Memoir 1 on the Strap and Sadong Valleys. This was followed by Memoirs 7 and 13 on the geology of the Lupar and Saribas Valleys and the Suai-Baram area in Sarawak and Memoir 16 on the Dent Peninsula in Sabah. He was also a contributing author to Bulletin 3, a regional geology of Sarawak, Brunei and western Sabah. All these publications are now out of print but they still remain a primary data source on Northwest Borneo. He was awarded a DSc(Oxon) for his pioneering work in Borneo.

Neville was appointed Professor of Geology in the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur in 1964 where he spent the next 14 years as an energetic Head of Department. In addition to teaching duties he designed a new Geology Building and became Dean of Science. He carried out research on tectonics and palaeomagnetism, and established the first laboratory in the region to study palaeomagnetism. He established contacts with other organisations in the region, undertaking fieldwork Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. In cooperation with the Geological Research & Development Centre, Bandung, Indonesia, he joined research cruises to study the geology of remote islands in the archipelago.

After he retired from the University, Neville spent the period 1980-1982 as a consultant attached to the United Nations Commission for Cooperation in Offshore Prospecting office in Bangkok followed by nine years as a senior consultant in Robertson Research, North Wales. He collaborated with Russian colleagues and produced a Palaeogeographic Atlas of the Shelf Regions of Eurasia for the Mesozoic and Cenozoic. He returned to Malaysia in 1991 as adviser at the Petronas Research Laboratory in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Oxford in 1994 where he was Visiting Professor in geology at Oxford Brookes University until 1999.

His paper Geosynclinal theory and the organisational pattern of the North-west Borneo Geosyncline was read to the Society in June 1967 and presented a courageous synthesis of the geology of the region in the terminology of that time, tackling some of the problems of geological evolution in Borneo, many of them still eluding valid explanation.

Neville remained active in retirement, becoming involved in the Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites movement and the Society's History of Geology Group, the latter sustaining his interest in the work of William Buckland. He was Chairman of the Oxford branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society. He was a driving force behind the founding of the Geological Society of Malaysia in 1967 and was, in addition to being a Fellow of the Society, member of the Geologists Association, Fellow of the Gemmological Association and member of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain.

Neville was an avid photographer, diarist, talented amateur actor and sometime Honorary Curator of Reptiles at the Sarawak Museum in Kuching, contributing articles to the Sarawak Museum Journal on diverse subjects other than geology. He was born in Bognor Regis on June 5 1928 and died in Oxford on June 20 2004. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, their son James and two grandchildren.

Robert B Tate