James Price worked mainly on the analysis of deformation in
brittle rocks, the mechanics of impact cratering, and the interaction
between lithospheric plates.
His last book, Major Impacts and Plate Tectonics (2001) demonstrates
how the fusion of these somewhat disparate fields can yield
challenging solutions to some longstanding puzzles in Earth
history, notably the sudden changes in azimuth and velocity
displayed from time to time by plate translation.
heritage is not confined to the written word. He was a talented
teacher, and during his years at Imperial College London he
helped to develop a celebrated MSc course in structural geology
and rock mechanics. His students and collaborators have gone
on to develop and complement his ideas in many parts of the
world, and his quantitative modes of structural analysis now
appear almost routine when once they seemed out of place in
Price was born in Ebbw Vale, Monmouthshire, and attended the
local County Grammar school. In 1943 he volunteered for the
Royal Navy and joined the RNVR, and in 1945 he was posted to
the Pacific Fleet. After demobilisation in 1947 he read for
a BSc (Honours) in Geology at the University College of Wales,
Aberystwyth. As he later wrote, the degree course, which was
heavily biased towards taxonomy, was not especially exciting.
Fortunately Aberystwyth is on Cardigan Bay, where a thick series
of folded grits and shales are exposed; and even more fortunately
the structural geologist Gilbert Wilson was visiting the University.
Fired by Wilson's lectures and field excursions Price began
a PhD thesis devoted to those structures, which he completed
at Imperial College London in 1953. In the same year he married
Joan Jenkins. They had one son born on 12 January 1956.
spent the next 10 years at the Mining Research Establishment
in Isleworth (Middlesex), where he became Head of Geology and
Strata Control, and where he worked on the elasticity and strength
of sedimentary rocks. Some of his early ideas were lucidly presented
in his first book, Fault and joint development in brittle and
semi-brittle rocks (1966). He joined Imperial College in 1964,
became Head of Structural Geology in 1974 and was awarded a
DSc by the University of London in 1975. Between 1984 and 1989
he was at University College London, and also acted as a consultant
to Shell, BP and Clyde Oil and to the US Government on the proposed
Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository. Price was awarded the
Lyell Fund of the Geological Society of London and the Consolidated
Goldfields Medal of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.
of Neville Price's colleagues at the Mining Research Establishment,
Gareth Jones, was an explosives expert, and Price soon grasped
the connection between bomb and impact craters. There were many
other productive collaborations, notably the experiments by
his student P K Slay that he supervised at IC on rock folding
under the influence of gravity The work with Jones encouraged
Price to consider the role of impacts in geological history,
which he included in a pioneering study of geological strain
rates, published in the Journal of the Geological Society in
1975, and to evaluate the force required to create impact craters
of different sizes under a wide range of conditions.
the end of his career Neville Price promoted at UCL the computer
modelling of pressure-release melting triggered by meteorite
impact. The folding studies encouraged him to revive the concept
of gravity glide as a major driving force in plate tectonics.
Price also investigated plate interaction on a grand scale in
his work on Indonesian tectonics with M G AudleyCharles, and
in 1981 he co-edited with K R McClay a Special Publication of
the Geological Society devoted to thrust and nappe tectonics.
The textbook The Analysis of Geological Structures, which he
co-authored with John Cosgrove in 1990, places the search for
the processes that modify the Earth's crust at all scales as
the primary aim of what they termed the mechanistic approach
to structural geology, a lively mix of disciplines that extends
to the other rocky planets and that fruitfully combines field
study, laboratory analysis and computer modelling.
Price was born 10 June 1926 and died in Stamford (Lincolnshire)
on 31 May 2005. He leaves his widow Joan and his son, the mineral
physicist Prof. G David Price.