Elected F.R.S. 1971
Robert Millner Shackleton, who died peacefully in his sleep on 3 May 2001, was born on 30 December 1909 in Purley, Surrey, the son of John Millner Shackleton (an electrical engineer of Irish derivation who, at one time, worked for the Post Office telephones) and Agnes Mitford Shackleton (née Abraham). He was distantly related to the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and was educated at the Quaker school of Sidcot, which profoundly influenced his subsequent life and career. He entered Liverpool University in January 1927 and graduated with a first–class honours BSc in geology in July 1930 under P. G. H. Boswell FRS, the first George Herdman Professor of Geology. He was only the fourth student in the history of the department to achieve a First. Shackleton's first visit to Africa was as an undergraduate in July to September 1929 to attend the 15th International Congress in Pretoria, South Africa. He always remembered Boswell's help and how he had persuaded him into going and even shared a cabin on the Union Castle ship to South Africa with him to reduce the cost at a time when most professors would not have done so. He saw the Karroo, the Kimberley diamond mine, the Witwatersrand mines, the Bushveld, Rhodesia, and the Drakensberg. This visit to Africa was to be the foundation of his love of Africa, its people and its geology. Shackleton went on to complete a PhD at Liverpool in December 1933 on the Moel Hebog area of North Wales, between Tremadoc and Nantlle, although some of the work was done while at Imperial College, London (IC), where he was Beit Research Fellow from 1932 to 1934, largely facilitated by Boswell, who was also an IC man and had moved back there to the Chair in 1930. The Moel Hebog mapping included examining some cliff faces never scaled by any geologist or, indeed, anyone before; it was part of a systematic re–survey of North Wales encouraged by Boswell, and followed the surveys of Snowdonia by David and Howell Williams. The Moel Hebog mapping was superb and, with his other field achievements, led to his receiving the Silver Medal of the Liverpool Geological Society in 1957. Shackleton was one of several Liverpool students, including one of us (B.E.L.), who from the 1920s onwards did part of their PhD work at IC. He had a petrological training, being taught silicate analysis by A. W. Groves at IC, but the petrological and palaeogeographic interpretation of his PhD area was hindered by the fact that ignimbrites had not yet been recognized and only a few chemical analyses could be completed. The published account (7) è did not appear until 1959 and then only because of the encouragement and devoted help given by Dr J. C. Harper.