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Coke Medal – Harold Garnar Reading

The Coke Medal is awarded to Dr. Harold Garnar Reading

Harold Reading's name is for most geologists intimately linked with the study of sedimentary facies, and with his classic textbook Sedimentary Environments and Facies. This book, thoroughly revised as recently as 1996, was a milestone in the interpretation of depositional environments by facies analysis.

Sedimentology, in particular its applications to tectonics, stratigraphy and economic geology, both in the UK and abroad, has been guided and invigorated by Harold's work over the last 35 years. Through the supervision of some 40 doctoral students from 13 countries, his philosophy has been transmitted around the world as these students, and their students, became leaders in their profession in universities, geological surveys and the oil industry. Through JAPEC and the field-based courses of Sedimentary Research Associates (SRA) he, along with John Collinson and Trevor Elliott, has contributed to the integration of academic and petroleum geoscience.

For 19 years he served the International Association of Sedimentologists (IAS) as Publications Secretary, General Secretary and President, seeing its membership increase 5-fold and extending its influence away from Western Europe to the wider world. In 1999, he was its International lecturer, giving courses in Jordan, India and Pakistan, as well as many countries of Eastern Europe. A Special Publication published in his honour in 1995 was written entirely by his research students and their students.

Harold Reading, former recipient of this Society's Murchison Fund and Prestwich Medal, holder of the Society for Sedimentary Geology's prestigious Twenhofel Medal and the Association of American Petroleum Geologists’ Distinguished Educator Award, it is my honour to bestow upon you the Coke Medal of the Geological Society.

Harold Reading replied:

Thank you, Mr. President, for this award. As an old colleague of the Department of Geology and Mineralogy at Oxford, you have followed, as President, two of my early undergraduates, Richard Hardman and Robin Cocks, whom it is a pleasure to see here today.

Twenty years ago, in acknowledging the award of the Prestwich Medal, I thanked those who influenced my early career and taught me the virtues of field work, especially field mapping, the foundation for any all-round geologist.

I must emphasise that Sedimentary Environments and Facies was not written by myself alone. Unlike the classic texts of Robin Bathurst and John Allen, it was a collaborative effort. Individual chapters were written by others - mostly former students, and colleagues. Without their expertise, the book could never have commanded the authority it did. Authors changed throughout the editions - only John Collinson and Howard Johnson lasting the three editions.

Working with the IAS has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. Run essentially from western Europe by a Bureau consisting of people from diverse disciplines and cultures, I could associate with Poppe de Boer, Bernard Beaudoin, Gerry Friedman, Hans Füchtbauer, Yvonne Gubler, Ken Hsü, Peter Homewood, Finn Surlyk and Maurice Tucker. Meeting twice yearly, for two days at a time, we had plenty of arguments, but they were never acrimonious; tempers were never lost, humour prevailed. Because of the respect we held for each other, however different our views, agreement was always reached in the end. A major purpose of the IAS is the transmission of knowledge to countries where, for economic or political reasons, scientists are cut off from the development of new ideas and concepts. Thus I was able to travel the world to give courses and be taken into the field by geologists, not only from Eastern Europe, but from countries as far apart as Argentina, China, India and Pakistan, whose hospitality I shall always cherish.

To me, the attraction of a university Career is the dissemination of knowledge and ideas. This is achieved not only through papers and books, but through lectures and courses, especially field courses. Only on field courses do we find that mixture of rocks, rain and beer, sun and wine that promotes discussion and cements friendships whether as undergraduates or professional geologists. I shall always be grateful to John Collinson and Trevor Elliott for joining me in the leadership of such courses to the cliffs of Co. Clare, familiar now to many hundreds of petroleum geologists.

On the committee of JAPEC I had a chance to work with Peter Baardsgaard, John Fuller, Ken Glennie, Douglas Hobson, Bob Stoneley and many others. JAPEC courses, and the equally important course books, not only brought to petroleum geologists the latest concepts and ideas, but ensured that academics could participate at low costs. They could gain, as I did, more from petroleum geologists than we ever gave them.

In the past two decades I have been delighted to see how, through such organisations as the Petroleum Group of the Society, the symbiosis of academic and industrial geologists has become normal. Of enormous importance to all aspects of geology has been the acquisition of subsurface data that now gives such realistic 3D and 4D models. Although ultimately such models have to be transformed into rocks, I do want to acknowledge the contribution to our science of drilling engineers and seismic processors, unknown to most of us here today.

Finally, thanks must go to my wife Bobbie and my children, for the suffering of long absences inevitable with a field geologist in the family.