George Walker
George Patrick Leonard Walker

(1926-03-02)2 March 1926
Died17 January 2005(2005-01-17) (aged 78)
Alma materQueen's University, Belfast (BSc, 1948), (MSc, 1949)
University of Leeds (PhD, 1956)
Known forVolcanology; mineralogy.
Scientific career
InstitutionsImperial College London
University of Auckland
University of Hawaiʻi
Doctoral advisorWilliam Quarrier Kennedy
Doctoral studentsSteve Sparks
Stephen Self
Geoff Wadge
Ian S. E. Carmichael[1]
Colin Wilson

George Patrick Leonard Walker FRS (2 March 1926 – 17 January 2005) was a British geologist who began his career studying mineralogy and later made significant contributions to volcanology.[2][3][4][5][6] He was widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern quantitative volcanology.[7]


Walker was born in Harlesden, London in 1926. He was the only child of Leonard Walker, an insurance salesman, and Evelyn Frances (nee McConkey), a nurse.[2] He went to school at Acton Lane Elementary School, and won a scholarship to Willesden County School in 1937.[8] In 1939, Walker and his mother were in Ballinderry, County Antrim, when World War II broke out. They stayed in Ballindery, and Walker completed his schooling at Wallace High School, Lisburn. Walker went to Queen's University, Belfast to study geology[5] and graduated with a BSc in 1948, and an MSc in 1949. He then went on to study for a PhD at the University of Leeds, under the supervision of W Q Kennedy. His dissertation focused on the secondary (alteration) minerals in the igneous rocks of Northern Ireland. In the summers of 1952 and 1953, Walker joined Kennedy on geological expeditions to the Ruwenzori Mountains and the Belgian Congo.

Career and research

In 1952 Walker took up an assistant lectureship in mineralogy at Imperial College, London. He was promoted to lecturer in 1954 and finished his PhD in 1956. For the next ten years, Walker turned his attention to the study of alteration minerals in lavas of eastern Iceland, spending each summer from 1955 to 1966 mapping in Iceland. This work earned him an international reputation as a meticulous mineralogist, and provided the first evidence for how the crust grows at oceanic ridges.[9] In 1964, Walker was promoted to Reader at Imperial college. Following the eruption of Surtsey from 1963-1967, Walker began to take an interest in active volcanism. This led to some of his pioneering studies, first of basaltic volcanism and lava flows on Mount Etna; and later, on pyroclastic rocks and the products of explosive volcanic eruptions, in Italy, the Azores and Tenerife.

In 1977, Walker was awarded a Captain James Cook Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand, which he took up at the University of Auckland. Although this began as a visiting position, in 1978 Walker resigned from Imperial College, and moved to New Zealand with his family. In 1981, he moved to the newly created Gordon Macdonald Chair in Volcanology at the University of Hawaiʻi. He remained in post until retirement, in 1996.[2][10]

Awards and honours

Walker received many awards and fellowships in recognition of his meticulous and influential work.

Selected publications

Personal life

In 1958, Walker married Hazel Smith. They had a daughter, Alison, and a son, Leonard.


  1. ^ Carmichael, Ian Stuart Edward (1962). Volcanic geology of Thingmuli, Eastern Iceland (PhD thesis). Imperial College London. hdl:10044/1/13654. EThOS Free access icon
  2. ^ a b c Self, S.; Sparks, R.S.J. (10 January 2006). "George Patrick Leonard Walker. 2 March 1926 — 17 January 2005: Elected FRS 1975". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 52: 423–436. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0029. S2CID 58809052.
  3. ^ Wilson, C. J. N.; Walker, G. P. L. (1985). "The Taupo Eruption, New Zealand I. General Aspects". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 314 (1529): 199. Bibcode:1985RSPTA.314..199W. doi:10.1098/rsta.1985.0019. S2CID 122824685.
  4. ^ T. Thordarson; G. Larsen; S. K. Rowland; S. Self; A. Hoskuldsson, eds. (2009). Studies in Volcanology: The Legacy of George Walker. IAVCEI. ISBN 9781862392809. [ISBN missing]
  5. ^ a b Wadge, Geoff (22 February 2005). "George Walker". The Guardian.
  6. ^ IAVCEI - A George P.L. Walker symposium on Advances in Volcanology Archived 2010-07-13 at the Wayback Machine - Reykholt, Borgarfjordur, W-Iceland, 12–17 June 2006
  7. ^ Thordarson, T.; Self, S.; Larsen, G.; Rowland, S. K.; Höskuldsson, Á (1 January 2009). "Studies in Volcanology: The Legacy of George Walker". Geological Society of London – via
  8. ^ Rowland, S. K.; Sparks, R. S. J. (1 January 2009). "A pictorial summary of the life and work of George Patrick Leonard Walker". Studies in Volcanology: The Legacy of George Walker. pp. 371–400. doi:10.1144/IAVCEl002.19. ISBN 9781862396241 – via
  9. ^ Bodvarsson, G.; Walker, G. P. L. (2 April 2007). "Crustal Drift in Iceland". Geophysical Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society. 8 (3): 285–300. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246x.1964.tb06295.x. S2CID 131498667.
  10. ^ "Professor George Walker". The Times. 18 February 2005.
  11. ^ "McKay Hammer Award » Geoscience Society of New Zealand". Geoscience Society of New Zealand.