Geoffrey H. Taylor

Written by Allan Davis
Geoffrey Hamlet Taylor, a pioneer of coal petrology in Australia, TSOP Honorary Member and an innovative researcher into the petrographic structure of coals, cokes and carbons, died on October 7th in Canberra.
Taylor’s Dr. rer. nat. was acquired at the University of Bonn under the direction of Erich Stach and his DSc from the University of Melbourne. His working career began earlier with the Geological Survey of South Australia; during that time Geoff learned coal geology and petrology from Charles Marshall and John Dulhunty at the University of Sydney.

In 1955 Dr Taylor began a lengthy and remarkable tenure at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), first of all in what later became the Division of Coal Research at North Ryde. Taylor’s abilities resulted in his ascension at CSIRO with leadership roles in the Geochemistry Section in the Division of Mineral Chemistry, the Department of Mineralogy and the Fuel Geoscience Unit. This last unit was established to develop techniques for use in petroleum and gas exploration in Australian basins and the evaluation of coals for industrial uses.

In 1980 Dr Taylor became Director of the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies with the rank of Professor at the Australian National University (ANU). This centre employed a multidisciplinary approach and so brought the expertise of fields other than science, such as medicine and law, to bear on resource and environmental issues. 
In 1982 Taylor returned to CSIRO as a member of its Executive in Canberra. His selection for this post concerned with all branches of governmental research in Australia was recognition of his outstanding abilities as a researcher and leader. Prof Taylor also held the post of Professor Emeritus at ANU at this time and in 1986 was appointed Visiting Fellow at the Research School for Earth Sciences; during the later years of his distinguished career he continued personally to make significant advances in coal and carbon science.

Taylor’s applications of optical and electron microscopy spanned the fields of coal and carbon science. His contributions included the discovery of anisotropic mesophase spheres in natural coke. Subsequent studies, involving both optical and electron microscopy, demonstrated that the same structures were formed in laboratory and industrial carbonisation of coals and pitches, and he has reported on the formation of fullerenes. Taylor published on a wide range of subject matter of organic petrological concern including the prediction of metallurgical coke properties, the classification of vitrinites, the origin of sclerotinite and micrinite, and the cold-climate formation of Gondwana inertinite.  He was a co-author and one of the translators for the second and third editions of Stach’s Textbook of Coal Petrology and the lead author and editor of the subsequent book Organic Petrology.

Geoff Taylor received the George Skakel Memorial Award from The American Carbon Society in 1995 for his contributions to carbon science and technology. In 1997 he was honored with the Reinhardt Thiessen Medal of the ICCP and in 2001 he was the recipient of TSOP’s John Castaño Honorary Membership Award.  He was a passionate advocate for our science, and among his many fine personal attributes he will be remembered by his contemporaries for his low-key style of verbal presentation and the clear and effective promotion of his viewpoints.