Posted on 28/11/2011
It is with great regret that the Department has learned of the death of Professor Russell Coope on 26th November 2011. Russell was a Visiting Professor in the Department from 1990; he was the most active of visiting appointments, a co-supervisor of PhD projects, a co-applicant for research grants, and a regular contributor to the MSc in Quaternary Science in the Department. His calm, gentle presence and depth of expertise have been a key part of the success of Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, and he will be greatly missed.
During the 1950's when based in the Geology Department at the University of Birmingham, Russell Coope helped to pioneer the study of fossil beetles for the purpose of reconstructing environmental conditions during the recent geological past. He quickly demonstrated their versatility and importance as an environmental proxy and indeed during the 1960's was the first to argue, based on his beetle evidence, that some climatic changes during the last glacial stage were extremely abrupt - a view stubbornly discounted by the scientific majority for some time, until recent research reported from Greenland ice cores and other newly-developed techniques vindicated his claims. He established himself as the leading specialist in the study of Quaternary fossil insects in the UK, making several major original contributions, and became one of the most widely respected and best known Quaternary scientists in the world.
Russell died suddenly, while out feeding his animals (native sheep, native cattle, deer, reared wildcats) on his land on the shores of Loch Tummel, near Pitlochry in Scotland. He was still researching to the end, having just taken custody of a new set of samples from a Hoxnian site, and expressing excitement about a particular species of fossil beetle he had discovered.
Image by permission of Professor Mike Walker, University of Wales Trinity St David