Marjorie Sweeting

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Marjorie Sweeting
Marjorie Sweeting.jpg
Born 28 February 1920
Fulham, London
Died 31 December 1994
Cause of death Cancer
Resting place London's Euston church
Scientific career
Fields Geomorphologist

Marjorie Mary Sweeting (28 February 1920 – 31 December 1994 in Oxford), was a British geomorphologist specialising in karst phenomena. Sweeting had gained extensive knowledge on various typographies by travelling to places such as Greece, Australia, Czechoslovakia, United States, Canada, South Africa, Belize, and most notably China. She published Karst Landforms (Macmillan 1972), and Karst in China: its Geomorphology and Environment (Springer 1995) after many years of work there starting in 1977; the latter is the first comprehensive Western account of China's karst.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Marjorie May Sweeting was born to George Scotland Sweeting and his wife Ellen Louisa Liddiard in Fulham in 1920. She was an only child, and her father was a geology lecturer at Imperial College, in London.


Her secondary education took place in Mayfield School and later graduated in 1981 from Newham College, Cambridge. She was accepted as a Caroline Turle Research Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge during 1942 for a year, later returning in 1945 for the Marion Kennedy Research.[3]


In 1987 Marjorie Sweeting retired from her position as Reader in Geography at The University of Oxford. She was also a Fellow and Tutor at St Hugh's College 1951–87 (Emeritus), and Lecturer and Reader at Oxford University 1954–87. During 1948, Sweeting became a PhD candidate who wrote her thesis based on The Landforms of the Carboniferous Limestone of Ingleborough District, N.W. Yorkshire.[3] In 1951 Marjorie Sweeting was appointed Lecturer and Director of studies in Geography at St. Hugh's College, 1983 she was named the Acting head of the school.[4] Sweeting served on the Karst Commission of the International Geographical Union, where she came to work on a new project titled, Man's Impact on the Karst. Additionally, Sweeting worked with Gordon Warwick in support of the International Speleological Union where she was in charge of the Karst Denudation.

A major feature of Marjorie Sweeting’s career was her influence on generations of undergraduates and graduates. Many were the Saturdays and vactation weeks she organized field trips for undergraduates, introducing them to caves and the pleasures of karstic landscapes.[4]


Sweeting contributed largely to the field of karst. Her many awards included those of Gill Memorial Prize of the Royal Geographical Society (1955), Certificate of Merit of the National Speleological Society of America (1959), and Honorary Member of the Cave Research Foundation of America (1969).[3]

Later life[edit]

Upon her retirement in 1987, Sweeting continued her research on karst whilst in China, which resulted in her final academic work, “Karst in China: its Geomorphology and Environment,” which was published posthumously, in 1995.


Marjorie Sweeting was a keen potholer and one way in which she introduced students to karst was to take them caving. Unable to continue her studies during World War II she went to Denbigh, North Wales as a geography teacher at Howells School.

From 1977, when she led the initial expedition, Sweeting worked extensively on the karst landforms of China.

Marjorie Sweetings book published after her initial retirement

There was plenty of scope – karst covers about one-seventh of the country, over five hundred thousand square kilometers. This was the first study of the karst regions of China by a western geomorphologist.[3]

Marjorie was acknowledged not only as an international expert on karst geomorphology but also as a generous and enthusiastic mentor for generations of undergraduate and graduate students.

For much of her career, Marjorie was one of only a small group of female physical geographers in Britain who fought hard and successfully to establish their international scientific reputation.

After retirement, Marjorie Sweeting continued her research in China which culminated in ‘Karst in China: its Geomorphology and Environment’, the manuscript being published in 1995, shortly after her death. It is the first comprehensive Western account of China's karst.[5][6] A special issue of ‘Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie’ on ‘Tropical and subtropical karst’ was published in her honour in 1997. She was probably the best-known and most influential woman geomorphologist of her time.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kennedy, Barbara (18 January 1995). "OBITUARIES: Marjorie Sweeting". The Independent.
  2. ^ "Karst in China - Its Geomorphology and Environment | Marjorie M. Sweeting". Springer. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  3. ^ a b c d Gouldie, Andrew; Ford, Derek; Sugden, David (28 October 2016). "Dr. Marjorie Sweeting". Earth Surface Processes and Land Forms. 12.
  4. ^ a b c Goudie, A.S. (July 1995). "Obituaries: Marjorie Sweeting 1920-1994". The Geographical Journal. 161 (2): 239–240. JSTOR 3060006.
  5. ^ Kennedy, Barbara (18 January 1995). "OBITUARIES: Marjorie Sweeting". The Independent.
  6. ^ "Karst in China - Its Geomorphology and Environment | Marjorie M. Sweeting". Springer. Retrieved 2018-08-08.