John Graham Ramsay

PROFESSOR JOHN G. RAMSAY FRSI first met John Ramsay in 1953 when I went to Imperial College to do my PhD.  The meeting was delayed because John was doing field work, but the department was buzzing with talk of this really outstanding student.  John became my guiding light but my attempts to emulate him failed miserably.  John’s Ph.D. and postdoctoral work was in the north west of Scotland, where he demonstrated polyphase folding.  Also, working in the Glenelg-Arnisdale area he solved a long standing controversy on the “Lewisian inliers”, were these rocks a basement to the Moine metasediments or were they an integral part of the Moine succession, as his head of department Professor H.H.Read proposed.  I remember John explaining his views to several of us, including Read.  Firstly he told us that Clough’s map of many decades ago was marvellous.  John’s own maps were a work of art, crammed with detail yet beautifully clear.

John’s lasting legacy will be the two books Folding and Fracturing of Rocks (1967) and The Techniques of Modern Structural Geology (1983,1987,2000) written with coauthors.  In these and especially in Vol.3 of the latter his mathematical skills are evident.  In this connection it is interesting to note that his interest in strain analysis must have been enhanced by his move to a professorship in Switzerland where he could quantify strain using deformed fossils and oolites. 

As if his great contribution to structural geology was not enough John was also a remarkable musician, not only playing the cello but in composition.  His four string quartets are on CD.  My wife and I attended the premier of String Quartet No 4 in Cambridge played by the Fitzwilliam Quartet.  John loved the music of J.S.Bach.  Perhaps his mathematical mind found an expression in Bach’s fugues.

He was a supreme structural geologist, achieving many medals and awards, yet remaining modest.  He was also an inspirational teacher.  

John was a treasured friend, great fun to be with, unforgettable and totally lacking in pomposity.  My wife and I enjoyed many visits to his and Dorothee’s lovely house in Cratoule where, surprise, surprise, we discovered John was a wonderful cook!



Michael Johnson

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