Paul Younger, 1962-2018

Tributes paid to hydrogeologist who spent career at Newcastle and Glasgow

May 10, 2018
paul younger

An internationally renowned hydrogeologist and environmental engineer has died.

Paul Younger was born in Hebburn, near Newcastle upon Tyne, in November 1962 and studied geology at Newcastle University (1984) followed by a master’s at Oklahoma State University (1986), where he had been awarded a Harkness fellowship. He returned to Newcastle for a PhD on modelling water resource systems (1990) and was appointed to the faculty.

He was to remain at Newcastle for more than two decades, teaching water and environmental engineering, as a full professor from 2001. He also served as the university’s public orator (2004-10), the UK’s first pro vice-chancellor for engagement (2008-10) and then the founding director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.

In 2012, Professor Younger moved to the University of Glasgow to take up the Rankine chair of engineering. Since he was an accomplished linguist and musician, he startled the audience at his inaugural lecture by (literally) singing the praises of a local hydroelectric scheme in Gaelic.

Although he sometimes worked in geology and other related areas of pure science, Professor Younger devoted most of his energies to the translation of high-level conceptual principles into sustainable engineering solutions. Particular areas of expertise included water-related renewable energy and the elimination of pollution and carbon emissions in the energy sector. He always maintained close links with industry and collaborated with organisations ranging from Yorkshire Water to the Centro Yunta in La Paz, Bolivia, while also setting up a number of his own companies.

“Paul Younger has left an immortal legacy in the hearts and minds of the students and colleagues he inspired,” said Tom Curtis, professor of environmental engineering at Newcastle, “and the springs, rivers and streams in the North East [of England], and around the world, are cleaner today as a result of his research, advocacy and enthusiasm”.

John Marsh, professor of optoelectronic systems at Glasgow, described Professor Younger as someone whose “passion was for people, demonstrated by his love and care of individuals, his appreciation of diverse cultures, his sense of justice, and his determination that developments in technology should lead to a better society. His influence was felt around the world, particularly in South America and Africa where he had several major collaborations.”

Honoured with fellowships by both the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Professor Younger published a number of major scientific papers as well as more popular texts such as Water: All That Matters (2012) and Energy: All That Matters (2014). He took early retirement in 2017, died on 21 April and is survived by his wife, Louise, and three sons.

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