Obituary for Stephen Coleman (1966-2012)
Stephen Edward Coleman was born on February 22, 1966 in New Zealand. He died on July 23, 2012 at the age of 46, after a short battle with stomach cancer. Stephen received his BE in Civil Engineering in 1987 followed by a PhD in 1992 at The University of Auckland.
His PhD research on sand dune initiation and development produced a wealth of new ideas and unique experimental data and, in 1995, he received the International Lorenz G. Straub Award for most meritorious thesis at PhD level in hydraulic engineering. After a two-year involvement as an Assistant Engineer at Works Consultancy Services Ltd in Wellington, Stephen returned in 1993 to The University of Auckland as a lecturer, progressing to Senior lecturer (2000) and to Associate Professor (2005).
In his research, Stephen made outstanding contributions to both fundamental and applied hydraulic research. Stephen’s research focused on sediment transport, morphodynamics, turbulence, waves, flow-biota interactions, and flow-structure interactions in oscillatory and unidirectional water flows such as rivers, estuaries and coastal currents. Stephen developed a range of new experimental techniques, procedures, measurement equipment and laboratory facilities, with the unique oil flume for ‘zooming’ viscous sublayer and studying sediment transport and a ‘magnetic’ flume for controlling sediment transport experiments, amongst the most spectacular examples.
Stephen also made step changes in conceptual understandings of sediment transport mechanisms and associated flow structure in equilibrium and non-equilibrium conditions with new models and conceptual developments for turbulence structure over regular and irregular rough beds. His research of fluvial mechanics was published in 45 journal papers and around 70 peer reviewed book chapters and conference papers.
Stephen is also widely known for his accomplishments in engineering studies of scouring processes, with significant contributions to bridge scour and erosion of fractured rock, including a well-known and widely cited book, Bridge Scour (2000), written in collaboration with Bruce Melville. Stephen’s high international standing was reflected in invitations to give keynote talks at major conferences and summer schools, editorial work at Water Resources Research, leadership on task committees and working groups of the International Association of Hydraulics Research and external PhD examinations.
Stephen initiated and led the Rivers Group of the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand and the Fluvial Process Initiative at The University of Auckland which heralded a new direction in river management. An excellent communicator and inspiring presenter, a caring teacher and mentor, Stephen was always popular among undergraduate and postgraduate students who were inspired by his lectures and stimulating discussions.
Stephen was also an invaluable member of the Engineering faculty, contributing not only through his international research acumen but also to the smooth running of the department.
He was farewelled by his wife, Kirsty, and their three children, Joshua (10), Tobi (9) and Morgen (6), who were all dear to his heart. Stephen was a real gentleman, a great family man, and a fine human being who touched the lives of so many. He will be greatly missed by his family, the engineering community and all those who knew him personally.
You are welcome to write a tribute to Stephen or you can send in a personal memory or photos to be part of a compilation book for Stephen’s family. You may also contribute to the Stephen Coleman Memorial Trust set up to support his children’s education by contacting Theuns Henning at firstname.lastname@example.org.