Denys Barker Smith

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9 April 1929 Born
1950 1st Class honours degree, University of Birmingham
1951–1953 National Service. Captain in the Royal Engineers In Reserve until 1964.
1953 Joined Geological Survey based at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
1961 Transferred to Leeds Office
1970 Secondment to New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources
1974 D.Sc. University of Birmingham
1975 District Geologist, South Wales and West Midlands (based in London)
1981 Head of Station, Newcastle Office
1984 Retired from Survey
1984 Established his own consultancy, GeoPerm
1984 Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Durham
11 July 2007 Died (aged 78)

Biographies and obituaries[edit]

Dr Denys Barker Smith (1929-2007)

Denys Barker Smith, 1929 - 2007 Obituary, Geological Society of London.

McLean, Steve Obituary: Denys Barker Smith 1929-2007. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 57, 131-132, 1 November 2008,

Cooper A.H. Yorkshire geology as seen through the eyes of notable British Geological Survey geologists 1862-200046-67 in Myerscough, R and Wallace, V. Famous Geologists of Yorkshire. York. ISBN 978-1-906604-58-5. PDF on NORA (extract on Denys Barker Smith below)


BGS archives[edit]

Ref No GSM/GX/Z/391
Title Smith, D B General; correspondence
Date 1954-1984

Denys Barker Smith 1929-2007[edit]

Extract with permission of the author from: Cooper A.H. Yorkshire geology as seen through the eyes of notable British Geological Survey geologists 1862-200046-67 in Myerscough, R and Wallace, V. Famous Geologists of Yorkshire. York. ISBN 978-1-906604-58-5. PDF on NORA

Denys Smith was the son of the local village headmaster at Wybunbury Cheshire. He attended his father’s school then moved on to Nantwich and Acton Grammar School where he excelled in geography and geology. His interests in geology took him to the University of Birmingham where he graduated with a first class honours degree in 1950. This was a time when National Service in the Army was obligatory and Denys spent the years from 1951-1953 as a Captain in the Royal Engineers where he was responsible for compiling mobility maps. In 1953 he joined the Geological Survey based in Newcastle, but he remained on the Army reserve until 1964. Based in Newcastle he was engaged in surveying the Permian and Carboniferous rocks of Sunderland and Durham setting the scene for his life-long interest in the Permian rocks and the evolution of the Permian Zechstein basin. Stemming from this work in the north-east he published numerous papers and memoirs including the Geology of the country around Durham and West Hartlepool with E Francis in 1967.

In 1961 the Newcastle office closed and Denys was transferred to the Leeds office, a move that saw him living on the Permian rocks at Aberford allowing him to study literally in his back garden. These included numerous papers on the Yorkshire Permian succession, sedimentology and correlation along with 2 chapters in the Geology of Yorkshire published in 1974. That same year saw him being awarded a DSc from the University of Birmingham for his work on the Permian rocks. In 1975 he was moved to London to head the South Wales and West Midlands unit, a post he held until 1981 when he moved back to Newcastle to head the new office there. This outpost was created when the Leeds office closed and most of the Survey staff moved to Keyworth near Nottingham. This placed him back in his old stomping ground and for 3 years he was in charge of the north of England survey teams and able to study the Permian in the local area. Another reorganisation of the Survey in 1984 meant that he would have to move to Nottingham, a pressure that prompted him to resign and set up his own consultancy company GeoPerm, he also became an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Durham University. Well placed with his industry contacts and his location he continued to research the Permian and in 1989 published an overview paper in the Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society entitled The late Permian palaeogeography of north-east England. This paper established the carbonate platform and ramp into deep water model as the dominant structure of the Permian strata of north-east England and Yorkshire.

This was followed by more papers and The Marine Permian of England a Geological Conservation Review Series book published in 1995 describing the English sequences in detail. Due to the hard work of Denys, many of the sections he described were already protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. One of the last papers he published was in 2006 as co-author of the Permian chapter in the Geology of England and Wales. He died in 2007 aged 78. Over the course of his career he published more than 70 papers and numerous maps, mainly on the Permian, but also covering the Quaternary and Carboniferous of north-east England.