Mervyn Paterson

Mervyn Paterson.

I am indebted to Mervyn Paterson for his great influence on my life. When I was a struggling PhD student at Sydney University around 1962 Mervyn organised his first structural geology conference at ANU and somehow I was invited. There I met Lionel Weiss who was at that stage my idol. I used to carry his papers around in my rucksack in the bush and sit on a rock and read them when I couldn’t understand some refolded mess. At the time Mervyn and Lionel were heavily engaged with symmetry and kink-folding, subjects they were eager to share with others. Later Mervyn organised a field trip to Olary in South Australia where I met John Christie who invited me to visit UCLA to work with him and David Griggs. Those field trips and conferences organised by Mervyn ultimately morphed into the highly successful SGTSG meetings that continue to this day. My regard for Mervyn was (and still is) immense. At that stage I really wanted to build some kind of mathematical framework for structural geology and Mervyn seemed to be able to do these things with ease. I followed his every word.

The stint at UCLA finally resulted in Mervyn and me sitting in a hallway at a Washington based AGU meeting and me asking him for a job. This seemed to work out well except for the inevitable interview by John Jaeger back in Los Angeles which was an ordeal by alcohol to see who could survive. I apparently got reasonable marks but did not thank Mervyn for the experience the next morning. The next few years in Mervyn’s lab were idyllic although his high pressure bomb exploded a day or so before I arrived and I was greeted with shards of steel embedded in the walls of the lab. The rebuilding experience taught me a lot about water in argon, the glass transition in rubber O-rings, the autofrettage process, the bluing of steel and big lathes that ”keep their tenths”; Mervyn was not only a superb experimentalist, he was (and enjoyed being) a superb engineer and physicist.

The time in Canberra was rewarding from many points of view. Mervyn introduced me to red wine. I had had some experience in Los Angeles with John Christie who learnt all he knew about red wine from Mervyn and from Frank Turner in Berkeley, who taught Mervyn all he knew about red wine; this group of wine lovers was a much inbred group indeed. Mervyn organised for me to join the Canberra wine and food society. These were days of great experiments not only with rocks but with wine, food, bushwalking, wildflowers and architecture (including the magnificent house designed by Enrico Taglietti in Canberra) as well. Mervyn also introduced me to classical music. He purchased a very fancy set of speakers and invited some of us around one night to experience the sound. We each were asked to bring a record and I took along The six and seven eighths string band of New Orleans. I somehow could tell that Mervyn was not impressed and we mainly listened to Bach. However Mervyn cooked a very fancy meal which was one of my main introductions to good food and wine.

Mervyn has not only made major contributions to my life, he has also made major contributions to structural geology. His background in physical metallurgy, his ability to design and build innovative high pressure, high temperature deformation apparatus and his gifted insight into physical and deformation processes has moved structural geology into a completely different world from what it was in 1962. I thank Mervyn profusely for all of this; he is sadly missed.

Bruce Hobbs, July, 2020.

Bruce Hobbs

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