The Ministry of Defence has surprised military watchers by appointing an earth scientist rather than an electronics or weaponry expert as its chief scientific adviser.
The MoD said Professor Sir Keith O’Nions’ broad scientific background makes him an excellent choice for the post, and he will provide ministers with a scientific `backstop’.
O’Nions, born in 1944, graduated from Nottingham University with a degree in geology. He gained his PhD at the University of Alberta before becoming a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Oslo.
His 30 years’ experience includes periods at Oxford University, as professor of geology at Columbia University, and as Royal Society research professor at the University of Cambridge. Since 1995 he has headed the University of Oxford earth sciences department.
O’Nions is a fellow of scientific bodies in the US, India, Norway and the UK. He has been a chairman or member of Natural Environment Research Council committees since 1981 and a Council of Science and Technology member since 1998.
He was knighted for services to earth sciences in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours.
O’Nions replaces Sir David Davies and takes up his post in January 2000.