Richard West was a botanist and geologist who significantly advanced our understanding of the Quaternary Period — which stretches from 2.6 million years ago to the present day — in Britain and Western Europe. He was particularly noted for his classification of the different temperate stages of the Pleistocene, including the Great Interglacial — a warmer period around 400,000 years ago.
Richard’s work notably involved drilling cores from ancient lakebeds near Hoxne and Ipswich in Suffolk, and an ancient forest in Cromer, Norfolk. The cores came from different periods in time, which Richard named ‘Ipswichian’, ‘Hoxnian’ and ‘Cromerian’ — terminology that remains in use today. The distribution of pollen and other plant remains within these cores, plus analysis of the soil types, provided Richard with data to make deductions about chronology and climate.
The importance of Richard’s research was recognised with a number of awards, including the Lyell Medal and Bigsby Medal of the Geological Society of London and the Albrecht–Penck Medal of the German Quaternary Association.
Professor Richard West FRS died on 31 December 2020.