Prof. Sir Frederick (Fred) Stewart

1916 - 2001

Geologist and science administrator. Born in Aberdeen, the son of a civil engineering lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, Stewart was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh and Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen. He studied zoology and geology at the University of Aberdeen and undertook his doctorate at Cambridge.

His interests evolved from the volcanic rocks and minerals of Skye, to the gabbros of Belhelvie in Aberdeenshire and the Permian salt deposits of Yorkshire, on which he published a series of notable scientific papers.

In 1941, Stewart gained employment as a mineralogist with the ICI research laboratories at Billingham (England) and was able to discover potassium salts of strategic importance to Britain during World War II. He gained a lectureship at Durham University in 1943 and was appointed to the Regius Chair of Geology and Mineralogy at the University of Edinburgh in 1956. He greatly expanded the geology department in Edinburgh both in terms of teaching and research, at a time when North Sea oil and gas were becoming important. Stewart also capitalised on the enthusiasm for the new theory of plate tectonics and oversaw the building of an experimental petrology unit with a high-temperature-and-pressure laboratory, designed to study the earth's mantle on which the plates float. This was also used by NASA to analyse rock samples from the moon. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Science in Edinburgh, on the Government's Council for Scientific Policy and Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council and the Advisory Board of Research Councils, which guided science policy in the UK. He brought the Institute of Geological Sciences (British Geological Survey) to Murchison House on the university's King's Buildings site.

Stewart was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1957, knighted in 1974 and was awarded honorary degree from five universities including Aberdeen, Glasgow and Heriot-Watt. He was a founding member of the World Cultural Council in 1981.

Stewart retired to Lochawe in Argyllshire in 1982, where he walked, fished and tended his large garden but continued to collect fossil fish and minerals. On Mull, he discovered the largest sapphire ever found in Scotland, which was displayed in the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. He also served as a Trustee of the Natural History Museum in London (1983-87).

Stewart died in Oban. His wife was the novelist Mary Stewart (1916 - 2014).

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