Dr Katharine Giles (in memoriam)

Wednesday,10th April 2013


I was just preparing to board a flight from Vancouver to Toronto today when a friend sent me a message, describing someone involved in an accident and wondering whether it was a friend I had talked with her about some time before. A quick internet search revealed that it was.

Katharine Giles passed away on Monday morning at approximately 08:25. She was cycling to her work at UCL, London, from Victoria station, when an accident occurred involving a lorry. No other details are available, other than that the driver stopped immediately and was not arrested by the police.

I met Katharine at the Herts and Essex high school in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, when I was 15. We were in the same year and sat in one or two of the same classes for the two years I was there. I remember her as someone at least as quiet as I was, although she was far more astute and intelligent, and just a better student all round. She was tall and thin and pretty, with the loveliest long and flowing hair. She was quiet but had good friends who she was clearly close to - Sarah, Julie and Laura come to mind, although plenty of others too.

When we went our separate ways to university we lost touch. It was thanks to Facebook that I came across her again, some time in 2011. I was thrilled to see she had obtained her PhD and I was stunned and staggered to see that it was in an area of research so close to my heart (climatology). Her photos from Antarctica and the Arctic made me envious at once. With my own plans to spend time on the Arctic sea ice I got in touch about a meeting.

During the winter of 2011/2012 we met up on Tottenham Court Road after work to discuss research opportunities - essentially just how I could integrate something into my planned trips to the Arctic that would be of genuine usefulness. When Katharine walked in it was as if time had stood still all these years - she had not changed at all. Still as elegant, still thin, still beautiful.  Always the quiet, searching, perceptive and intelligent character. It was so wonderful to catch up, and I am so grateful for the time she gave to me, the stories and the advice. The communications continued via email, and I was awaiting confirmation of funding for my next expedition before getting in touch again.

Katharine was one of those people who genuinely held a passion for what she did and she loved it. It had taken her to opposite ends of the Earth and given her experiences and insights many of us will never come close to having. A truly lovely person passed away this week, and that is a deep tragedy and a horrid shame. My tears have been for the loss from my life, the sadness of such a wonderful person no longer with us, and all she leaves behind.

I miss you Katharine.


Katharine's website: www.katgiles.co.uk





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