Mike Audley-Charles obituary

Other lives: Geologist whose research work concentrated on south-east Asia, in particular Timor

My father, Mike Audley-Charles, who has died aged 86, was a geologist with a special interest in south-east Asia. His research during the 1960s and 70s offered new interpretations on the formation of the Banda Arc, a set of island arcs in eastern Indonesia, the evolution of Gondwana, a southern supercontinent that existed about 550 million years ago, and the origin of the Timor Trough in the ocean north of Australia.

Mike was born in Worthing, Sussex, to Laurence, a merchant seaman, and Elsie (nee Ustonson), a housewife. His father was killed in the second world war, and as Mike’s mother could not afford to keep her two children, he spent his early years in an orphanage, going home in the holidays. He left the orphanage aged 16, after taking O-levels, then studied A-levels at Enfield Technical College in north London followed by a degree in geology at Chelsea Polytechnic.

After graduation he worked for just under a year in Canada as a geologist for a copper mining company in Chibougamau, acquiring his distinctive beard as protection against the cold. He then moved to Australia, where he worked for six years with Timor Oil Company, doing geological work connected to oil exploration. While in Timor he made a geological map of the island of Portuguese Timor (now Timor Leste), where he is still remembered with respect and affection.

He returned to London in 1962 and used his Timor work as the basis of a PhD thesis at Imperial College and for a 1968 Memoir of the Geological Society of London, which remains a seminal work on the island’s geology. He became secretary of the Geological Society in 1969.

After postdoctoral work on the British triassic period he was appointed lecturer, then reader, in geology at Imperial College. In 1977 he became professor and head of the department of geology at Queen Mary University of London, and in 1982 he moved on to be professor of geology and head of the department of geological sciences at University College London, until he retired in 1993.

Mike was a convivial and generous host and with his wife, Brenda (nee Cordeiro), a community nurse whom he married in 1965, he loved to welcome friends and students to their home in Sussex, where he shared his scientific knowledge and his love of poetry, Shakespeare, opera and the music of Mozart and Schubert.

He is survived by Brenda, their children, Helen and me, and four grandchildren.

Henry Audley-Charles

The GuardianTramp

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