Monday, 9 June 2008

Mike Fasham

We got some sad news at work today concerning Mike Fasham, the great god of plankton modelling. After a prolonged period in hospital the past month, Mike died on Saturday the 7th June.

I add that rather light-hearted appellation above because that's how I first knew of Mike, and because I think he would have been amused by the over-egged awe that my fellow plankton modelling students held him in. Working in Warwick and in Leeds, we knew only of Mike from his work in far-off Southampton. Many such distant greats of science that one comes to know through their published work turn out to be dull as dishwater or mean-spirited workaholics when finally encountered in the flesh. Not so Mike.

While I got to know him somewhat during an extended workshop in Cambridge in the summer of 1996, it wasn't really until I left Warwick and moved to Southampton that I got to know him well. In fact, since my PhD. was founded on a model that he published in 1993 (a descendant of his most famous model, FDM90), I chose to move to Southampton specifically to work with him. As it turned out, we didn't work directly together at first, but we were still able to collaborate on a paper together (albeit on the rather arcane topic of off-shelf carbon transports).

However, despite only limited work contact, Mike and I would still chat together at length, particularly on his frequent visits to NOCS after his retirement. While oceanography would be an occasional topic for discussion, it was usually a minor one. Mike saved his ideas for those who could best work with them; rarely me. Instead, we'd usually trawl over politics, often drifting onto films, books or more general science topics. A recurrent, comic topic was that of my PhD. supervisor, who Mike had come to know while organising that 1996 conference. Between us, we had plenty of stories to trade there.

Although Mike had cancer for almost all of the time that I knew him, he never gave in to it, and would occasionally arrive at NOCS with novel haircuts "inspired" by his bouts of chemotherapy. While the last year saw Mike confined to home, we were still able to visit him on-and-off, and he was always in good spirits whenever we saw him. As ever, these visits were not frequent enough, but they were always highly enjoyable occasions for us and, I hope, Mike.

I'll miss him without a doubt.

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