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Colin Campbell Ferguson 1945 - 1999

Dr Paul Nathanail mourns the loss of a friend and colleague

On both a personal and a professional note it is with great sadness that I report the death from cancer of Professor Colin Ferguson.

That Colin Ferguson was a clever man became apparent in 1972 when he graduated from the University of Nottingham with first class honours in geology having picked up a string of university prizes on the way.

On graduating he joined the university's staff as a lecturer and five years later was awarded his PhD. During the 1980s he spent time working at Kansas Geological Survey and Kansas State University with John Davis - one of the leading mathematical geologists of the time.

Then in 1985 Colin was appointed head of the department of geology at Birkbeck College and a professor of the University of London.

In 1987 he left to become founder managing director of Chemex International, a publicly floated company set up to carry out high quality chemical analysis of potentially contaminated soil and water.

In 1989 he resigned, following a major disagreement with the chairman over strategy and finance, at which time the deputy chairman and finance director also resigned - evidence of Colin's integrity and moral courage.

After Chemex, Colin had gone to Dames & Moore and then the Weeks Group. Among the projects he worked on was one on nuclear waste disposal and another on landfill gas risk assessment for the Department of the Environment - the rubicon had been crossed.

Eight years ago this month Colin returned to Nottingham and set up the Centre for Research into the Built Environment at the new Nottingham Trent University. He grew the group by providing his colleagues with the opportunity to pursue their own ambitions and ideas.

As professor of environmental science, Colin carved out a high reputation for the iniversity and helped the faculty achieve the establishment's highest grade at the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise.

Colin has had a major impact on contaminated land policy and practice over the past decade. Through his research work for the DETR and Environment Agency he took sampling strategies past the sterile approach of DD 175 and into the realm of design intelligent and statistically robust sampling patterns.

Much of his work for the DETR remains unpublished - although that could change at any time. The Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment model was developed to help derive new guideline values for soil contamination with respect to human health. It was the first probabilistic model and encouraged others around the world to adopt similar approaches.

His work in European Concerted Actions CARACAS and CLARINET won him the friendship and respect of leading scientific and policy advisers around the world.

In October last year, we all moved to the University of Nottingham, and the work begun at Nottingham Trent carries on today under the banner of Land Quality Management at the University of Nottingham.

Colin took up a new chair in environmental engineering in the School of Chemical Environ- mental and Mining Engineering. He was very excited about the possibilities that returning to his old stomping grounds would bring. He was particularly amused by the thought that one of us had his old room in the former department of geology.

Colin had an ability to apply scientific principles; original, often lateral, thinking and mathematics to produce efficient and optimised solutions to contaminated land management problems. But it is for the daily inspiration that he gave those around him that he will be most sorely missed.

He had a knack of making people feel good - if he had a mission statement, unlikely because he sneered at such things, it would be the word 'fun'.

Colin always had high expectations of those around him - he had a knack of getting you to get the best out of yourself, but always being there if you needed help or advice. He has now set us a much harder challenge - that of fulfilling those expectations without him.

Contaminated Land News returns next month

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