One of the North East’s best-known scientists who was an internationally-renowned environmental pioneer has died at the age of 55.
Professor Paul Younger, from Hebburn, was a passionate champion for the North East and a cousin of Olympic runner Brendan Foster, who also grew up in the South Tyneside town.
Prof Younger, who wrote a column in the Chronicle as the “Go Green Doctor” answering people’s questions about sustainability issues, joined Newcastle University as a geology undergraduate and later became its first Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement.
He was then appointed director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.
Prof Younger was also a driving force behind the bid to make Newcastle a City of Science and Technology and led the pioneering research to drill for geothermal energy in the heart of the city.
He left Newcastle in 2012 for Glasgow University after his appointment to its Rankine Chair of Regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts in the remediation of water pollution associated with mining - which he pioneered in County Durham - a highlight of his career was leading the research team which won Newcastle University its first Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2006. Prof Younger was a major player on both the regional and global stage and was responsible for leading the university’s ‘Enough, for all, forever’ campaign, set up in partnership with leading figures around the world to help tackle one of the greatest societal challenges of our age - sustainability.
In a statement, Paul’s family said: “Of all of his achievements, Paul was most proud of his wonderful marriage to Louise and his very happy family life with his three sons, Thomas, Callum and Dominic.
“Paul was an incredible husband, father and inspiring academic and accomplished musician and linguist in his own right. Gan canny bonny lad.”
Professor Chris Day, vice-chancellor and president of Newcstle University said: “It is impossible to sum up Paul in a few sentences – he was a giant of a man in every way and his warmth, enthusiasm and fierce sense of justice permeated everything he did.
“Academically he was known and respected in his field by experts around the world, but it was in his role as ambassador for the university that I knew him best. I had the pleasure of working alongside him on the university’s executive board for many years and I enjoyed his intellect, his challenge, but above all, his passion for his subject, the university and the region.
“This passion always came to the fore when he performed as public orator at the university’s graduation ceremonies and special events. Like me, Paul was a fellow proud Geordie but his influence was felt around the world and he will be greatly missed by many.”
Colleague Dr Jaime Amezaga, a Reader in Environmental Sustainability, said: “Paul’s interest in sustainability was best reflected by his passion for working with communities worldwide.
“If you asked Paul what part of this career he liked the most he would probably answer the years he was working as a hydrogeologist in Bolivia, serving rural communities. For Paul, world-ide truly started at home, with the communities of the North East and Scotland.”
nda O’Connell, Professor of Water Resources Engineering who worked closely with Paul throughout his time at Newcastle, said: “Paul’s passion came from a warm heart and a fundamental desire to do good in the world. He has helped more people than we will ever know, and in so many different ways. This reflected his deeply held Christian beliefs.”
Prof Younger’s talent for research was equalled by his linguistic skills, mastering many languages fluently – including Gaelic.
His efforts to support local communities and issues was recognised by his appointment as a Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear and In 2011 he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Gateshead.
Colleague and environmental engineer Dr Adam Jarvis, said: “Paul’s talent for public speaking, and for engaging his audience, captured the enthusiasm of countless students at all levels of study, including school children, and numerous professionals.
“His ability to simultaneously make people more knowledgeable and make them laugh, whether in a lecture room or at a social function, was unparalleled.”
Tom Curtis, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Newcastle, said: “Paul Younger has left an immortal legacy in the hearts and minds of the students and colleagues he inspired and the springs, rivers and streams in the North East, and around the world, that are cleaner today as a result of his research, advocacy and enthusiasm.”
Professor Richard Dawson, Head of the Water Group at Newcastle, said: “Paul’s achievements were impressive and many, but for those who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him, it will be impossible to forget his energy, warmth, and great craic.”
Dave Morton, the Chronicle's Nostalgia Editor, was a boyhood friend and schoolmate of Prof Younger.
"We went to St Joseph's RC Comprehensive School in Hebburn together," recalls Dave.