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Robin A. Wooding

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Robin A. Wooding was an applied mathematician who made many outstanding and original contributions to hydrology throughout his research career.

He was born in Timaru, New Zealand in 1926. He enrolled for a B.Sc. at Canterbury University College in 1947, but he transferred to Victoria University College and completed his B.Sc. there. In 1950 he studied full time, gaining an M.Sc. degree in Mathematics, conferred in 1951.

In 1963, he left the DSIR to work under J. R. Philip in the Agricultural Physics section of the Division of Plant Industry at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Canberra, Australia. Wooding's most important contributions while working with CSIRO were in problems related to water movement.

He presented analytical solutions for a hydraulic model using the method of characteristics, which was motivated by the observation that linear mathematical models of the day describing streamflow due to storm runoff did not explain important observations. These included the change in shape of the discharge hydrograph and the nonlinear variation of peak discharge rate with variation in rainfall intensity. Wooding's theoretical treatment using kinematic wave theory provided answers to explain these observations.

He also provided numerical simulations for the problem and fitted his catchment stream model to field observations in three natural catchments. He and Tom Chapman considered groundwater flow in sloping aquifers a class of free-surface seepage flows, with distributed replenishment, over a sloping impermeable layer.

Unlike earlier results for this problem, they showed that the slope of the phreatic surface at the highest point in the flow region was in exact agreement with observation, a remarkable result since this was in direct contrast to the results obtained using the classical Dupuit-Forchheimer assumption which exhibited increasing discrepancies as the slope of the sublayer increases. These classic papers provided a framework for improved prediction of groundwater flow to a stream and were synergistic with Wooding's other activities in water movement and catchment-stream analyses.

Wooding continued to publish papers until his very last days. Indeed, his last paper was published in February 2007. In it, he combined the so-called vector potential and pressure formulations of the governing equations of flow and transport in porous media to obtain better agreement between numerically simulated and experimentally observed convective fingering that develops from an evaporating salt lake.

This contribution was written by Thais H. Abissamra based on the available online literature.