Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Victor Goldschmidt (January 27, 1888 in Zürich – March 20, 1947 in Oslo)

The term “geochemistry” had existed for 100 years when Victor Goldschmidt built upon technical developments of the time, as well as advances in physics and chemistry, to revolutionize the field by adding a theoretical underpinning to it, turning it into a mature science.

Victor Moritz Goldschmidt was born in Zurich on 27 January 1888, the only child of Heinrich Jacob Goldschmidt and Amelie Goldschmidt. His earliest schooling, he received at Amsterdam and Heidelberg, and later at Oslo, where his father became professor of chemistry in the University in 1900.

He was drawn to nature in Norway, became interested in mineralogy, and profited from vacations in the countryside to study rocks.  He entered the University of Christiana in 1905, studying geology and mineralogy. In 1907 he began a pioneering study relating the chemistry of regionally thermally altered rocks to the systematic evolution of distinct mineralogical assemblages.

Goldschmidt gained his doctorate at Oslo in 1911, was made docent in 1912 and appointed in 1914, at the early age of twenty-six, Professor and Director of the Mineralogical Institute in the University.

Goldschmidt’s first published paper appeared in his first year at the University. It dealt with the pyroluminescence of quartz, a subject which had taken his youthful interest as early as 1904. He contributed a paper on the germanium mineral argyrodite, and indicated how the measurement of radioactivity of minerals could be used as an aid in the identification of some of the rarer species, such as orangite, samarskite, euxenite and polycrase.

In 1917, he became the director of Norway’s Raw Materials Lab, dedicated to finding Norwegian sources of minerals that were in short supply due to World War I. As a result of this investigation into the chemical nature of economic minerals, Goldschmidt came to the study of crystal chemistry just at the time when new and powerful techniques for elucidating crystal structure, such as X-ray diffraction, were being developed.

Escaping to Britain in poor health, he began to work on his classic book Geochemistry, but died following his return to Norway in 1946.
Victor Goldschmidt (January 27, 1888 in Zürich – March 20, 1947 in Oslo)
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