Memorial service Mar. 18 for Neville Cook, an expert on rock mechanics and UC Berkeley professor of materials science who died Mar. 3

By Robert Sanders

BERKELEY ­ A memorial service for Neville G. W. Cook, a well-known expert on mining and the mechanics of rocks who died earlier this month, is scheduled for Wed., Mar. 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Faculty Club on the UC Berkeley campus.

Cook, the holder of the Donald H. McLaughlin Chair in Mineral Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, died Mar. 3 of cancer at his home in Lafayette at the age of 60. He had suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma for several years.

A highly respected faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering, he was known for his contributions to rock mechanics and the design of deep mines and underground nuclear waste repositories.

He played important roles in assessing the underground rocks at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and Hanford, Washington, to determine whether the rock could adequately contain buried nuclear material for long periods of time.

Cook pioneered the study of rock deformation and fracture, including how fractures grow and propagate, and how fractures reflect and refract acoustic and seismic waves. Much of this he and John Conrad Jaeger summarized in a textbook, "Fundamentals of Rock Mechanics," that became the Bible in the field, said former student Stephen Blair, a geophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"A lot of his work was fundamental to fields of mining, deep drilling and geological engineering," said Blair, who received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1994. "He was able to distill very complicated problems down to their essense, and could see problems from the small scale of micromechanics up to large scale field applications."

Among other things, Cook is recognized for his studies of rockbursts - underground earthquakes that can result from mine construction. More recently he investigated the microscopic structure of rocks and fractures, down to the size of a grain, using techniques such as injecting liquid metal into fractures and studying the cooled solid under a microscope.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he served on many of its committees and panels, most recently chairing the Committee on Advanced Drilling Technologies in 1993. He also was a distinguished member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.

Cook also participated on many scientific advisory boards for national agencies, including the National Research Council and the Office of Technology Assessment, helping to set environmental standards for radioactive waste management and respirable dust in mines.

A senior scientist in the Earth Sciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Cook also chaired UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group from 1994 to 1997. The interdisciplinary campus group conducts graduate programs focusing on energy, resources and development.

A skilled teacher and researcher, Cook was also an able administrator, serving on many committees to help shape the College of Engineering, the UC Berkeley campus, and his field of study.

He was honored in 1995 with the Müller Lecture at the Eighth International Congress of the International Society for Rock Mechanics, the society's premier award for outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of rock mechanics and rock engineering. Among his other awards was the Rand Mines Award of the Institituion of Mechanical Engineers in 1975.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa (d.o.b. 1/29/38), Cook received his bachelor's degree in engineering and doctoral degree in geophysics from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1959 and 1962, respectively.

His doctoral research on analysis of rock failures surrounding excavations was incorporated into South African mining practices and led to his being tapped to start the Mining Research Laboratory of the Chamber of Mines of South Africa. He served as its first director from 1964 to 1976, during which time he studied various aspects of gold, diamond, platinum and coal mines.

His development of rapid yielding props, which are still used today to give miners in deep mines the time to escape a cave-in, was the main reason he received along with colleague Miklos Salamon the Gold Medal of the Scientific and Technical Societies in 1971. The medal is South Africa's premier award for outstanding contributions to science and technology.

In part because of his opposition to apartheid, Cook and his family decided to leave South Africa, and he joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1976. He quickly established himself as a leader in the fields of rock mechanics, petroleum and mining engineering, hazardous waste disposal and geophysics.

He is survived by his wife Jennifer Cook of Lafayette and two children, Anna-Marie Cook-Polek of Piedmont and Paul Cook of Oakland. Anna-Marie and Paul both followed in their father's footsteps at UC Berkeley, obtaining master's degrees in materials science and mineral engineering in the early 1990s.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hearst Memorial Mining Building renovation project, and sent to the Berkeley Engineering Fund, 208 McLaughlin Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1722. Please note on the check that the gift is designated for the Hearst Building renovation project, in Cook's memory.

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