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ex-UCL student

I was very saddened to find out today that Seymour passed away a few months ago. I was an undergraduate student at UCL in 2003 attending Seymour’s course on geophysics, which I absolutely loved and always looked forward to even though they were sometimes scheduled at the very end of a long day. Not only did he have a knack for making his subject sound fascinating, as if he were telling us a fascinating adventure story, his kindness shone through and I felt like I was being taught by a friend who was warm and humble. At the end of the course I talked to him about doing a PhD under his supervision, and planned to return after an MSc at Imperial. But then life took me elsewhere and I never did do that PhD and didn’t see Seymour again, but always wondered What If. I am grateful and thankful for that time. My deepest sympathies to Seymour’s family and friends. God bless you.

Seymour Laxon

A collection of pictures which say a lot about Seymour’s approach to life… 

Teenage Thinker

“Well then … have a good rest of your life.” These were the last words Seymore said to me as we parted at Green Park tube station in the summer of 1980.  I still remember those words, because it brought the closure of my days at secondary school into focus.  All I could say was “Bye … maybe I’ll see you sometime”, but I was not sure if he heard this as the train doors were closing behind him as he got off the.  I never saw Seymore again.  I’d known Seymour as a classmate and friend during our years at Westminster City School in Victoria.  He was a kind and friendly kid, sensible, witty at times, respected by his classmates and friends, and who always achieved well in class.  Oftentimes in the fourth and fifth years we would walk with other friends such as Phil Proctor, Gareth Watson, Matthew Bodley and Richard Evans to Regents Park.  There we would walk along the Serpentine during our lunch hour chatting.  I remember how he used to be considered ahead of our class in French, as his time in France had given him a certain advantage in the language.  I also remember his programmable Sinclair calculator, on which he honed his first programming skills and his intent to follow a career in programming – this he said would make him a lot of money.  At the time, I had never heard of, let alone seen a programmable calculator.  Only a year or so before this we were being taught the use of a slide rule … I was intrigued.  I remember having conversations with Seymore, whose ideas at times were less than conventional.  He was truly a deep thinker even then.  In particular I remember him proposing that perhaps the world was filled with automatons or robots, and that the entire world was staged for the sentient individual (in this case himself) who subsequently never ceased to exist.  He asked me to prove otherwise, a challenging philosophical question which to this day will occasionally resurface in my thoughts and bring a smile to my face.  I know this all happened so many years ago, but I had known of Seymore’s career at UCL for many years following my attempts at contacting some old friends through websites such as Friends Reunited, and I had intended to contact him “sometime”.  I was shocked and saddened at the news of his passing, and can only imagine the pain felt by his immediate family following this tragic loss.  It is also a great loss for the world as a whole; that such a formidable champion of the Earth Sciences should leave us so prematurely, as we will never know where else his path of achievements may have lead.

Sad to hear of his passing

I only had a few interactions with Seymour as a person, while I worked at UCL, but since leaving I’ve come across much more of his work as a scientist. I’m very sorry to hear there won’t be any more of it nor of him.

Seymour as a phd colleague

Phd students at MSSL

 

I first got to know Seymour in 1984 when he started his 3rd year undergraduate project at MSSL and I started by phd.  I used to drive him from London to MSSL and back on a daily basis, later on with Duncan and others, until he got hold of his Dad’s second hand car. I got the impression that the commuting was a small price to pay for being able to live in London, even if Seymour and Duncan occasionally arrived at Clapham to be meet me only to have to return home because I overslept (late starts being normal in those days, as a student). On one occasion, I was driving Seymour and maybe Lars Ulander to MSSL and swerved to miss a duck in the road, with the result that we landed in a front garden, having gone through a hedge. Seymour liked to tell that story when I was around to hear it again (and again…).  Unlike me, Seymour stayed on at UCL and built on his early research, developing an impressive global reputation in his field. He had a healthy initial scepticism towards research that is a sign of a good academic and he was always useful to talk to. My thoughts are with his friends and colleagues at UCL and especially with his family.

 

Kim C. Partington

Seymour with Imogen in Les Gets, 2008.
This photo was taken minutes before the infamous runaway-sledges incident. Someone has the whole thing on video. Suffice to say both his daughter and mine survived unscathed, and thoroughly enjoyed their first solo flights.
Philip Eales

Seymour with Imogen in Les Gets, 2008.

This photo was taken minutes before the infamous runaway-sledges incident. Someone has the whole thing on video. Suffice to say both his daughter and mine survived unscathed, and thoroughly enjoyed their first solo flights.

Philip Eales

Seymour taking a photo backed up against our equipment as we flew over Arctic ice.

Seymour taking a photo backed up against our equipment as we flew over Arctic ice.

Seymour taking photographs in the Arctic.

Seymour taking photographs in the Arctic.

Thank you Seymour

Seymour was my PhD supervisor. His enthusiasm for studying sea ice was infectious and I remember really looking forward to starting.

 

I always felt like Seymour was on my side and really wanted me to succeed. He would get excited when I came into his office with new results and we’d contemplate the next steps. He seemed very keen to give me every possible opportunity to develop as a scientist. At conferences he’d always make sure we all knew which sessions he’d be at and where everyone was going for dinner. I think someone said he was the ‘glue’ between people and I agree with that. Even outside work he was always interested in meeting new people and I remember him chatting away to friends of mine when we all happened to be in the same place. He also made me feel proud of my achievements.

 

Right from the beginning he talked a lot about Fiona and Imogen, he was extremely proud of you both. I remember him bringing in Imogen as a little baby and how he often described her as ‘really good fun’ - I think this was a way of not sounding too soft but the way he said it showed how much he felt for her. As time went on he talked about choosing her school with Fiona and then how she was finding it.

 

One of the most noticeable things about him was his generosity. If he could help you with something, he would. He gave and lent things without a second thought.

 

I’ve never been to a funeral like Seymour’s, so many people and so much emotion in the air. I learnt so much from him about science, generosity and loving your family and friends, passions and job. Seymour you inspired and made possible some of the most important experiences in my life and you will influence many more, thank you.

My Cousin Simba

My Cousin Simba

 

I don’t remember meeting Seymour but I know it was a long time ago, the photos of my older cousin holding a tubby baby and the date and inscription on the back prove that.  I do however, have very early memories of the legendary oldest cousin of the family and the awe in which we all held this amazingly independent, clever, cheeky, unconventional and sometimes very annoying member of our gang. 

 

A true mentor, my cousin “Simba” (a pet name given to him by his Gran which he hated and we therefore used mercilessly as kids) taught me so much ……… how to make beans on toast, the formula to create a never ending spirograph pattern on his new ZX81, how to get away with having the messiest bedroom ever and of course, the meaning of life (otherwise know as Radios 4’s Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy). 

 

Later on these valuable lessons in life extended to, which tube stations didn’t require tickets, the best night bus routes, the fact that it was possible to go to work the next day having sat up all night listening to Pink Floyd and an interesting selection of beverages including the infamous “Baileys and Tequila” cocktail, not to mention, how to set up home in the back of an ancient beige Sierra when in between flats.

 

Ok, so that’s just some of the funny stuff, more difficult to put into words, is the generous, resilient, good humoured and sensitive side to my elder cousin - the stuff that one tends to take for granted until you think back over the years.  The family celebrations and get togethers when he would just turn up from some far flung travels with gifts like my treasured Genesis album, bottles of champagne or some quirky new gadget that you never knew you needed.  The hours sat in the pub putting the world to rights or the long trips, which he would share, to visit sick grandparents and his laid back nature which enabled him to see the good in everybody.

 

Sitting here in Egypt now, having finally gathered my thoughts, I am wondering why it’s been so hard to add some words to this wonderful and lasting tribute to my cousin Seymour.  Perhaps it’s partly the distance that makes it all feel so unreal, the sadness of having been unable to join so many friends and family for a final send off but maybe most of all a regret that over the past few years we have seen so little of each other. 

 

I didn’t really know so much about the important work that Seymour was doing until now reading all his tributes and obituaries and more sadly, I only saw a couple of times what a wonderful and doting father he was to Imogen.  I hope in years to come, I might be able to make up for that and be able share with her more stories and memories of her lovely Dad. 

 

Someone once said “It’s the lives we encounter that make life worth living” - Seymour you were definitely one of those lives.  My thoughts are with Imogen, Fiona and my aunt Veronica.

Corri

Obituary for Seymour in The Times today.

Obituary for Seymour in The Times today.

Seymour doing two of the things he loved - skiing and flying! - photographed by Adam many years ago.
It was snowing on Monday as we came out of the memorial service - quite fitting for the “polar professor” - and it’s snowing again today.
It reminds me of skiing with Seymour in France a few years ago. I had spotted a black run - The Yeti - beneath one of the chairlifts. It was far too scary at the top, but had fun-looking moguls halfway down that could be reached via a bunny-run from an adjacent blue. I didn’t want to risk it on my own, but Seymour readily agreed to give it a go and we got down in one piece.
Not a big adventure, but a bit of fun I probably wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t been there. I’ll miss his can-do attitude.
Philip Eales

Seymour doing two of the things he loved - skiing and flying! - photographed by Adam many years ago.

It was snowing on Monday as we came out of the memorial service - quite fitting for the “polar professor” - and it’s snowing again today.

It reminds me of skiing with Seymour in France a few years ago. I had spotted a black run - The Yeti - beneath one of the chairlifts. It was far too scary at the top, but had fun-looking moguls halfway down that could be reached via a bunny-run from an adjacent blue. I didn’t want to risk it on my own, but Seymour readily agreed to give it a go and we got down in one piece.

Not a big adventure, but a bit of fun I probably wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t been there. I’ll miss his can-do attitude.

Philip Eales