Sir Frederick Stewart, the eminent geologist and regius professor of geology and mineralogy at Edinburgh University for more than a quarter of a century, spearheaded the creation of the specialist laboratory whose techniques were seized upon by both Nasa, for the analysis of lunar rock samples, and early pioneers of the North Sea oil industry. His long experience with government proved valuable in knowing how and where to find the funding that led to the tripling in size of Edinburgh's department of geology.

Rocks and minerals fascinated the schoolboy Fred Stewart. He inherited a love of the outdoors and natural history from his father, Frederick, a lecturer in engineering at Aberdeen University, and the young Fred Stewart's early research expeditions took him to igneous rocks on Skye, and closer to home to Belhelvie, eight miles north of his native city. To the end of his days, he never lost his youthful zest for collecting mineral samples and fossil fish.

Educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and Robert Gordons College, Aberdeen, he first read zoology for three years at Aberdeen University before taking honours in geology followed by post-graduate research at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1941 he began as a research mineralogist with ICI, concentrating on salt deposits in Yorkshire. With existing supplies in German hands, these potassium salts were strategically vital to the Allied cause. Examination of these 250-million-year-old Permian sediments proved complex, but his outstanding work was recognised by the Geological Society of London, the Yorkshire Geological Society, and the Mineralogical Society of America. The latter was particularly intrigued to discover the similarity of Yorkshire salt deposits to those in Texas and New Mexico. He later had a paper on salt deposits published by the US Geological Survey.

His move two years later in 1943 as a lecturer in geology at Durham University proved doubly rewarding: to deploy his formidable intellect within academia, and to meet his future wife, then assistant lecturer in English at the same university.

It was his elevation to the Edinburgh chair in 1956 which demonstrated to a wider world his flair for administration. Responsible for building up the Grant Institute of Geology, he relished the task, and by the mid-1960s had engaged enough funding to build and equip an experimental petrological unit, a high-temperature and pressure laboratory that was the first of its kind in Europe. Here he developed a facility which proved of enormous benefit to North Sea hydrocarbon exploration and development, and here came Nasa for the analysis of the lunar rocks gathered in the Apollo 11 moon mission.

In 1965 he succeeded Professor (later Sir) Michael Swann as dean of the faculty of science. Under his direction, there were created science studies, geophysics, microbiology, integrated biology, and engineering science, and the siting of the new Institute of Geological Sciences at Kings Buildings. His innate lobbying skills, coupled to his formidable mastery of debate, were recognised by his appointment in 1967 to the

Council for Scientific Policy and, over the next dozen years, he developed a powerful role as a

scientific statesman. In 1971 Stewart was appointed chairman of the National Environmental Research Council and was involved in the separation from that body of nature conservancy, a difficult job later described by a colleague as emotional.

He was awarded honorary degrees by five universities (Aberdeen, Leicester, Heriot-Watt, Durham, and Glasgow) and knighted in 1974. The same year he became chairman of the Advisory Board of Research Councils. He was now responsible for advising the secretary of state for education and science on science policy, and this he successfully did under four incumbents, one of whom was Margaret Thatcher. His leadership and vision saw appropriate funding delivered to bodies as diverse as the natural history division of the British Museum and the Royal Society.

A sapphire he discovered, at 3in long the largest ever found in Scotland, was later put on display in the National Museum of Scotland. Somewhat put out that this mineral could be thought to be some kind of jewel, a member of his family referred to it as just a hunk of dirty-looking rock.

Sir Frederick stepped down from Edinburgh University in 1982 and, with his wife Mary, retired to the shores of Loch Awe, where he added the River Orchy to the Tweed and the lochs of Caithness and Harris as favourite spots for his beloved fly-fishing. The following year, for half a dozen years, his vigorous talents were put to good use as a council member of the Scottish Marine Biological Association.

He died in his 86th year, and his survived by Mary Florence Elinor nee Rainbow, his wife of 56 years (and in her own right the novelist Mary Stewart).

Sir Frederick Henry Stewart KB FRS FRSE FRSA FGS BSc PhD DSc, professor emeritus, Edinburgh University; born January 16, 1916, died December 9, 2001.

Gordon Casely