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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Pioneering oceanographer Dr Neil Wells retires after 38 years at Southampton

Published: 2 August 2016
Dr Neil Wells
Dr Neil Wells with Emeritus Professor Harry Bryden

Friends and colleagues of Dr Neil Wells, Associate Professor in Physical Oceanography and Meteorology, gathered at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton to wish him well in retirement.

A pioneer of large scale ocean modelling, he joined the University of Southampton in December 1978, exchanging summer in Australia for a chilly winter in southern England. He became the eighth academic member of staff in the embryo Oceanography department on the Highfield campus. Since then, he has taught for nearly 40 years, authored 45 academic papers and supervised more than 25 PhD students – many were there to exchange memories and pass on their good wishes.

“Although the weather wasn’t pleasant, I felt at home right away at Southampton because people were friendly and interesting from many different areas of science. I’ve had a really enjoyable time here and I’m glad I spent most of my career at Southampton,” he told the gathering.

Emeritus Professor Harry Bryden paid tribute to his colleague at the event and outlined highlights of his career from the publication of his first research paper in Nature in 1974. Neil was among the first scientists to model oceans and their climates, was a member of the FRAM centre of excellence in the 1980s and Chief Editor of the academic journal; Global Atmosphere Ocean Systems. Neil also wrote a popular undergraduate textbook The Atmosphere and Ocean, now in its third edition, which has been recommended for policymakers wanting to understand this important subject as well as undergraduates.

Recalling happy memories with fellow colleagues
Recalling happy memories with fellow colleagues
Friends and colleagues gather at Neil's reception
Friends and colleagues gather at Neil's reception


Postdoctoral researcher Dr Mark Pickering says: “Neil was my supervisor from my undergraduate years to my PhD and his patience and good humour helped me to succeed. I’m now working in civil engineering and the environment at Southampton, this reflects Neil’s frequent collaborations with other areas of science and engineering.”

Dr Lisa Marsh was so inspired by his teaching about estuaries during her Masters degree at NOCS that she went on to take a PhD in the subject at Plymouth: “He presented the subject in a lively and accessible way and was always approachable and happy to explain the science again if you had not understood everything,” she says.

Emeritus Professor John Shepherd echoes their words. “I have known Neil since 1980 and would call him a real gentleman. He was always generous, kind and helpful and was the first to make me feel welcome when I arrived at Southampton.”

Neil now becomes an Emeritus University Fellow after his retirement.

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