Passing of DCO Colleague and Mentor, David Hilton

Our DCO colleague Dave Hilton passed away Sunday, 7 January 2018 after a five-year battle with cancer (Multiple Myeloma). He will be remembered as a fantastic scientist, a great mentor and a friend to many of his students and colleagues. 

Dave was 59 years old. He bravely fought through his illness and underwent a number of bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, and radiation sessions before succumbing on 7 January 2018. He went into the lab each day he didn’t have a doctor’s appointment and planned treatment around international trips.

Dave was born in Bangor, Wales. He received a BS in Geochemistry from the University of Liverpool, an MS in Hydrogeology from the University of London, and a PhD in Isotope Geochemistry from the University of Cambridge where he worked under the supervision of Sir Keith O’Nions. After a two-year post-doc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the late 1980's (working with Harmon Craig), he went on to run labs in Berlin and Amsterdam, before permanently moving to Scripps in the mid-90s.

Dave was well-loved by his students and colleagues and highly respected in the fields of noble gases, stable isotope geochemistry and volcanology. He was most well-known for his investigations into helium and carbon characteristics in subduction zones and in mantle hotspots. His other areas of research included using noble gases in groundwaters and geothermal fluids as indicators of recharge characteristics, flow history, and seismic activity. 

An excellent scientific writer, Dave authored more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals and books, and achieved an H-index of 46, with more than 6,000 total citations. 

Dave was passionate about his job and loved nothing more than field-work; he was most content climbing a remote volcano to collect gas or mineral samples, or cranking away in his laboratory – pushing the limits of data quality! As a supervisor, he was heavily involved and had very high expectations from all of his students, but once they gained Dave's respect and trust, he was fiercely loyal, supportive, and proud of their accomplishments.

He had a great sense of humor and was a very gifted story teller; he could captivate a room with one of his tales - often involving field work in some far-off corner of the world and always involving hilarity. His daughter Nia recalls one dinner in Turkey when a colleague went outside for a bit and Dave went on to tell a tale about a particularly shrewd teacher he had in primary school. As the colleague returned to the table, they said "Even though I couldn't hear the story, I couldn't help but laugh outside from just your reactions!" and Dave repeated the story to even more exuberant laughter.

Dave was also passionate about football (soccer) and a lifelong supporter of Everton Football Club. In addition, Dave frequently enjoyed recounting (unsubstantiated) tales of his personal football greatness, taking particular pride in winning the 1983 Plates championship, while serving as captain of the Darwin College Football Club. He would not let it go unnoticed that he accomplished this remarkable feat at the same time as being the manager of the college bar.

Dave is survived by his wife, Purnama, daughter, Nia, father, and 2 brothers. They kindly request that in lieu of flowers, please consider donating to “science, education in STEM, or just have a good medium rare steak and a beer, and think of Dave while you do so.” 

-Contributed by Peter Barry, University of Oxford, UK

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