Obituary: Oswald Farquhar, professor emeritus of Geosciences

Oswald Cornell Farquhar, 92, of Amherst, professor emeritus of Geosciences, died May 30 at home.

He was born in Hexham, England. At age 16, he joined a cadet wing at an airfield developing military radar technology that played a pivotal role in World War II.  He later went on to champion the now-widespread use of radar-based remote sensing for geologic science. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1940, served as an active-duty officer until 1945 and as a reservist until the early ’50s. He evaluated the role of surface geology in coastal defense and tank stranding, circumnavigated the globe repeatedly, and performed many stints of long distance air transport.

He earned two degrees at Oxford University in the ’40s and a doctoral degree in geology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in 1951. He evaluated copper, asbestos and other mineral resources in several regions of the world, including the Taita Hills in Kenya. He taught summer courses at the University of California, Berkeley, accepted a position as a lecturer at the University of Kansas in Lawrence in 1953, and came to UMass in 1957. He taught advanced courses on economic, engineering and environmental geology, and sometimes offered a basic course on physical geology.

He organized a major scientific conference on campus on “Economic Geology in Massachusetts” in 1966, and edited a 50-paper volume based on its proceedings. He later organized a conference at UMass Boston in 1980 and edited a companion 55-paper volume on “Geotechnology in Massachusetts.”

While on sabbatical leave in 1963 and 1964, he studied volcanic rocks and other potential mineral resources in New Zealand. He was interested in all topics, but his fieldwork most often focused on hard rock mining and/or energy storage in large reservoirs of pumped water or compressed gas for later conversion into electricity. While on sabbatical in 1977-78, he  presented a series of papers on compressed air storage in Stockholm, Prague, Istanbul, England and Germany. He  served as the acting chair of his department on multiple occasions. He retired in 1985.

He leaves his three children, Tony Farquhar of Baltimore, Carolyn Farquhar of Chelsea, Quebec, and Donald Seton Farquhar of Niskayuna, N.Y.; a grandchild, and his ex-wife, Elizabeth Farquhar Burke of Easthampton.

There will be no funeral, in accordance with his wishes. His ashes will be scattered in the Scottish Highlands on wet rocky ground at a later time.