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Issue 474, 3 December 2001

Professor Joe Cann

Johnson Robin Cann graduated from St John's College, Cambridge with a first class honours BA in Natural Sciences in 1959, and was awarded an MA in 1961. His research career began with the completion of a PhD thesis (1959-1962) at Cambridge under the supervision of Professor C E Tilley. He was awarded a ScD in 1984.

Professor Cann continued as a Research Fellow in St John's College, and then gathered further experience first through a period of post-doctoral work in the US Office of Naval Research and then as a Senior Scientific Officer in the Department of Mineralogy, British Museum. It was over this period of time that Professor Cann first developed his lifelong interests in ocean floor rocks and oceanic crustal structure.

His academic career began in 1965 with his appointment as lecturer to the newly founded School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. It was whilst at UEA, which was then challenging many of the more conservative UK University practices, that Joe developed the imaginative and thought-provoking teaching style which later became his trademark. He was promoted to Reader in 1973 but left shortly after on being appointed J B Simpson Professor of Geology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Here he managed and led the Department successfully through a difficult period of change, before moving on again in 1989, this time to the Department of Earth Sciences at Leeds. He acted as Chairman of this Department from 1989-95, during which the high status of the Department was confirmed first by the Oxburgh Review of the UK Earth Science Departments and then by the first RAE. He further laid the foundations for continuing success through both his perceptive insights into future trends in the subject and his outstanding example as a teacher.

Professor Cann's work on mid-ocean ridges, ocean floor rocks and black smokers has been recognised through the award of the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London and by election as a FRS in 1995. He has served with distinction, and exerted a huge influence on, the organisation of ocean floor drilling both at an international and national level for many years. It would be no exaggeration to record that, in proposing and leading the UK's BRIDGE project in the 1990s, he was crucial in maintaining a UK role on this valuable area of international science.

Joe has taken a well-deserved retirement from 31 July 2001, although he will hold a part-time appointment as a Senior Research Fellow until 2003. He will undoubtedly retain an active research profile through this time but will hope to spend more time with his second wife Helen, whom he married this year after the death of his first wife Janet a few years ago. He is an outstanding scientist and teacher, an excellent scientific leader and a superb mentor to his many graduate students.

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