Robert H S Robertson,

mineralogist; born June 17, 1911, died July 7, 1999

Born in Greenwich, Robert Hugh Stannus Robertson was educated at Rugby School, where he read classics, briefly attended the University of Frankfurt-am-Main in 1928, and then gained an MA in geology, mineralogy, and chemistry at Cambridge (Gonville and Caius College). He was the son of Sir Robert Robertson, one-time government chemist, and Lady Robertson (nee Stannus).

After graduating, he spent several months mapping Dicksonland in Spitsbergen, and has a glacier, Robertsonbreen, named after him. In 1933 he was appointed chief chemist to the Fuller's Earth Union Ltd in Surrey where he spent nine very successful years. He devoted all his working life to applying science to industry and specialised in the creation of new processes and new industries.

He moved to Glasgow in 1944 and, 14 years later, to Pitlochry, which he regarded as his spiritual home, since many previous generations of his family hailed from the Parish of Moulin and Pitlochry. This was where he remained for the rest of his life. Working as a consultant, he rapidly became a highly respected world authority on the uses of clay minerals, the methodology of raw material development, and the management of innovation. His work was varied and worldwide, including, for example, field work in Iran, Spain, Greece, and the US, as well as the United Kingdom. His activities contributed to the success of industries as diverse as ceramics, cat-litter, a number of catalytic processes, and North Sea oil extraction, to name but a few.

Yet this was but one side of him. His interests and knowledge ranged widely, from linguistics to the rise and fall of civilisations; from Scottish dancing to reform of the economic system; from Scottish politics to the arrival of the Saxons in Kent. A legacy of his time at Rugby, he remained fluent in Latin and classical Greek. In science alone he could and did comment knowledgeably and pertinently on almost any field.

To provide a platform for the original work he and a number of friends were performing in the field of raw material development and industry creation, Robert set up the Resource Use Institute in 1969. This is a company limited by guarantee based in Perthshire, but with members who are widely scattered. Signatories to the original document, and other members, included Sir Robert Watson Watt, Dr Neville Woodward, the Duke of Atholl, Alec Barbour, Lord Richie-Calder, and others among well-wishers of the venture. It was a far-seeing document which included reference to a hoped-for University of the Highlands.

He wrote many scientific and technological papers and was the author or co-author of five books. He served a term as chairman of the British Clay Minerals group. He was a member of many learned and scientific societies including the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society of Chemical Industry, and was a Fellow of the Geological Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He was also a member of the Athaeneum Club, where he loved to engage in intellectual debate with people from all kind of intellectual backgrounds.

The Scottish National Party remained the nearest to a political home for him, for he had campaigned for greater Scottish autonomy long before it became fashionable, and he served terms as president of both the Scottish Patriots (he succeeded Sir Compton Mackenzie) and the Atholl Branch of the SNP.

In later life, freed of the need to consult for money, the focus of his study was on cultural identity and the pattern of history, particularly of Scotland and other ancient cultures of Western Europe. He was always interested in linguistics and, although not a Gaelic speaker, he contributed to the creation of English-Gaelic scientific word lists. His tireless reading and research on a plethora of topics led him to correspond with a great many people around the world.

Close and loving family life was very significant to Robert, and it was in Pitlochry that he met Anne-Lise, who was on a visit to Scotland at the time, and they were married near her home town of Rolle in Switzerland in 1962. He is survived by her, by children Alison, Malcolm, and Duncan, and grandchildren Roisin and Liam.

He lived a full and varied life and did make many valuable contributions to technology and the economic life of the country, but not the least of his achievements was the vast range and diversity of people that he touched and intellectually stimulated, and the many friends he made from all walks of life, all of whom feel the poorer for the passing of this remarkable man - but proud and privileged to have known him.