N.B. Information given below is derived mostly from


The late Prof. Robert Millner Shackleton (1909-2001) was a famous British field geologist who made significant contributions to our understanding of the geology and tectonic setting of the East African Orogen.  Born December 30, 1909 in Purley, Surrey, he attended the Quakers' Sidcot School in Somerset and the University of Liverpool where, in 1930, he obtained a B.Sc. degree in Geology with First Class Honours. He went on to earn his Ph.D from the University of Liverpool in 1934 under the supervision of P.G.H. Boswell on the geology of the Moel Hebog area of Snowdonia in North Wales, helped by an award (1932-1934) from the Beit Fellowship at Imperial College, London.                      

      In 1935, Robert Shackleton was appointed Chief Geologist to Whitehall Exploration Ltd in Fiji, and in 1936 he became a Lecturer in Geology at Imperial College. As part of the wartime strategic planning program, he was appointed in 1940 a geologist in the Mining and Geological Department of Kenya. He carried out detailed studies in the areas of Malikisi, North Kavirondo, Nyeri, the Migori Gold Belt, Nanyuki, and Maralal, presenting his results as  reports to the Geological Survey of Kenya. His work in Kenya introduced him to the East African orogenic belts attracted his attention to volcanism associated with the East African Rift.  In the mid-1940s, he constructed geological maps of the area around the Olorgesailie SW of Nairobi where Mary Leakey, in 1942, discovered prehistoric human artefacts, and the area between Olorgesailie and Ngong.

      In 1948, Robert Shackleton returned to Liverpool as the Herdman Professor of Geology. He played a significant role in re-organizing the geology department to be in the forefront of geological research in Britain. In 1962, in order to continue his research in East Africa, he was given a chair at the University of Leeds and joined the staff of the Research Institute of African Geology. From 1965 until his retirement, Shackleton serve as Director of the Institute.  In 1970-1971, he joined Haile Selassie University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as a Visiting Professor of Geology.  Dr. Shackleton retired from his Leeds University appointment in 1975, but continued his love of geology as Research Fellow at the Open University from 1977 until his death.

The contributions of Robert Millner Shackleton to the geology and tectonics of Africa include:

- Initiation of structural studies across orogenic belts in Tanzania-Zambia-Malawi.

- Major studies across the Limpopo Belt and adjacent Archaean greenstone belts of Zimbabwe-Botswana-South Africa.

- Detailed studies across Egypt, Sudan and Kenya with particular attention paid to Tertiary volcanics in Kenya.

Even at the advance age of 75, Dr. Shackleton continued active field work and collaborated with the Academica Sinica, Beijing on the geology of Tibet.

Prof. Robert Millner Shackleton was awarded the Silver Medal of the Liverpool Geological Society (1957) and the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London (1970). He was elected Fellow to the Royal Society in 1971.  The "Robert Shackleton Award for Outstanding Precambrian Research in Africa" given by the Geological Society of Africa is a fitting reminder of his brilliance as a geologist and teacher, and a tribute to his lasting contribution to the geology of the continent.

Prof. Robert Shackleton passed away May 3, 2001.  He was married and had five children one of whom, Prof. Sir Nicholas Shackleton (1937-2006), followed him into the field of geology.