Mervyn Paterson

(Unfortunately, I got the sad news of Mervyn’s passing away only at the end of October. Though I made several attempts to have some news inbetween. Hence this delay in my response)

From the day I met Mervyn Paterson has his PhD student in the September of 1974 both he and Katerlyn have been our teacher, mentor and close friend specially for our initiation in to the new life in Canberra. For us it was our first overseas trip; Mervyn & Katerlyn did everything possible for us to feel Canberra a second home away from Sri Lanka.

With a background in physics and maths (with no Geology!) quartz work esp. on single crystals fitted with my original intention of working on a solid state physics problem for my PhD. Mervyn was the ideal supervisor who fitted with such boundary conditions! He first let me go through all the relavent literature including the seminal work of Griggs/Blacic at UCLA around 1970. Mervyn was always available for all discussions, advice, and guidance required. As a result of the advice and independance I enjoyed at RSES we could make a number of very significant discoveries on the experimental side of quartz deformation, so much so that we even sent a short paper for publication in the Nature magazine. Some of the findings were made for the first time, especially very- low- temperature IR spectorscopy on single crystal quartz/both natural and synthetic at various levels of plastic deformation. His later theorization into the defusion of OH through dislocations etc. were amazingly interesting and must have given much enthusiansm to try various theoratical models on the subject of water in quartz deformation – though by then I was mostly into other areas of university teaching both in Sri Lanka and Africa. That era culminated with me transfering fully in to education management as a director of a militery university until my retirement, also as  an education consultant  in Iraq under the United Nations.

I had the occation to visit Mervyn in Canberra in 2012 when he hosted me for lunch at the University house and spent time showing me around where some of those deformation equipment were being manufactured. Mervyn did visit Sri Lanka early 1980 during which time I was able to take him to  our national parks and ancient cities including A’pura and Sigiriya rock among others, which he enjoyed greatly.

Mervyn’s life-long contribution to science in general and the fellow scientific community in particular will be remembered as one of the most important contributions.

With his demise I miss a great teacher and a friend. 

As per our Buddhist beliefs, may he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.


Kumar Kekulawala (Sri Lanka)

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