Noël Harold Gale. 24 December 1931–3 February 2014
Noël Harold Gale, MA, DSc, PhD, BSc, ARCS, FSA
Emeritus Professor of the University of Oxford
Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.
24 December 1931 – 3 February 2014.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Noël Gale, an academic who for many years in his research in Oxford strived to straddle the Two Cultures of Science and Humanities.
Noël was a star pupil of Brockenhurst Grammar School and graduated in Physics from Imperial College, London. He started his PhD degree in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, on application of nuclear physics to medicine, but then changed to a pure physics degree which he completed at the University of Manchester. Still as a nuclear physicist he worked for several years at the Harwell Laboratory of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment until the early 1960s when he was employed by the University of Oxford in the Department of Geology (later Department of Earth Sciences) to build one of the earliest mass spectrometers to be used in isotope geochronology.
His work in the Age Laboratory of this department led in 1975 to a meeting with Prof.Wolfgang Gentner of Heidelberg University who proposed that they collaborate on developing the use of lead isotope analysis in revealing the origin of ancient silver Greek coinage. Soon afterwards Professor Colin Renfrew suggested to Noël that a really interesting project would be to investigate Bronze Age sources of lead and silver in the Aegean. Over the course of the next thirty years, at the University of Oxford, Noël Gale became a leading scientist in the field of application of lead isotope analyses in provenance studies of Bronze Age metals in the Mediterranean. Thanks to his total devotion to this subject and his uncompromising scientific integrity he raised this technique to a status amongst the archaeologists similar to that of Carbon-14 dating. Subsequent controversy over this method of provenancing ancient metals helped to refine the interpretation methodology and kept it on strong scientific grounds. His contribution to science based archaeology should not be underestimated.