Oxford Archaeological Lead Isotope Database

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

Noel Picture

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 graduated in Physics from Imperial College, London and obtained his PhD in pure physics at the University of Manchester. 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 to research in the use of lead isotope analysis to finding the origin of ancient silver Greek coinage, later extended to investigation of Bronze Age sources of other metals. 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. In 1997 he was awarded by the university of Oxford degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) for his contribution to science and archaeology.

Zofia Stos-Gale