Home   AmMin   GMR   RiMG   Collectors Corner   Directory   Short Courses 

Volume 69, pages 572-573, 1984


     Presentation of the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America for 1983 to
Hans-Peter Eugster


     Department of Geological Sciences

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

     Officers and members of the Society, and guests:

     Today I have the privilege of introducing to you one of our outstanding members as the Roebling Medalist. I have known the man for a quarter of a century, and continue to be rewarded by his friendship, his personal generosity, his demand for truth, and by his creativity. Those of us who have had the good fortune to have Hans Eugster as our mentor have sensed from the start of our apprenticeships that we were truly colleagues in the effort to better understand rocks and minerals. This feeling of selfworth is the greatest gift one human can bestow on another, and Hans has showered it on his students in great abundance.

     Those who have visited Hans' rural retreat in Maryland can also attest to his generosity as a host and to his abilities as a chef and raconteur. He has a wonderful sense of humor which has served him and his colleagues well over the years. I remember well the tenseness of the situation when he, the Swiss, was correcting and improving the english in my dissertation. His good humor made me come out of the encounter grateful for his suggestions, and more importantly, happy about myself and my work.

     His generosity is given freely, not only on things mineralogical, but on food, wine, music and art. This generosity has been freely given to us even when Hans himself was going through his own physical and emotional traumas. A wonderful by-product of being an Eugster Associate is the sense that we all are part of a family, and some of my longest and truest friendships with graduates of Johns Hopkins University began during our mutual association with Hans. I don't know if Hans was a scout in his native Switzerland, but his personal qualities read like the Scout Law: his regard for the truth; his kindness to his students; his bravery under physical ordeals; and his reverence for the world, its people, and our science.

     Two exceptional personal qualities which have brought Hans to this podium today are his quest for truth, or if you will, his curiosity, and his creative ways in finding that truth. When I was struggling with some apparent discrepancies during our early collaboration, I finally came to the conclusion that some of my original temperature determinations must have been in error. I reluctantly spoke about this to Hans, and the immediate retort was to find out why. Thus began my initiation into why one never takes any sort of laboratory measurement for granted. The consequent corrections led to a consistent set of measurements, and our work was on its way. I then learned the true meaning of "the truth shall set you free." During that work we had occasion to summarize the thermodynamic parameters of the system Fe-Si-O twenty years ago, and I am pleased to say that Hans is the coauthor of a recent paper refining these parameters. His quest for the truth remains vigorous.

     Eugster's creative genius is the other reason we are celebrating his career today. When I was visiting the Geophysical Laboratory in quest of a possible doctoral thesis, his inventive ideas captured me in the way that N. L. Bowen's ideas must have captured an earlier generation. He had just invented his buffer method, and I was greatly taken with the simplicity of the device, and the powerful reach that its application would give mineralogy. My association with Hans and his ideas has given me countless gifts, and I remain in awe of his ability to grasp a problem ("Dave, you haven't come to grips with the problem" was a constant invocation), see the essential conflict, and propose a dozen solutions. He remains a disciple of multiple working hypotheses, and through this, continues to create new interpretations and methods for discovering the truth. I hasten to add that his mind is not only creative, but also facile and tough. Part of our original collaboration was possible because of my formal training in chemical thermodynamics which Hans had not had. For a few months, I was the teacher and he the student, but he quickly absorbed what I knew, set off on his own, and began to teach me new things and new methods. His recent work on the Cornwall Pennsylvania Magnetite deposits and his paper at this meeting on tin deposits in China demonstrate his firm grasp of thermodynamic methods, and his uncanny ability to create new applications.

     His creativity rubbed off on all of his students, and through us, Hans has given the world oxygen, hydrogen, water, carbon dioxide and halogen fugacity meters, geologic thermometers, properties of minerals and other phases of geologic interest, and methods of attacking problems in all phases of petrology: igneous, metamorphic, ore deposition, and sedimentology. His early recognition that the evaporite minerals of the Green River formation were the product of a history of aqueous processes started him on a series of major contributions of ideas, data, and students to chemical sedimentology. His influence has been felt so pervasively that now it is commonplace to interpret sedimentary mineral assemblages to reveal the history of H2O interactions in those  rocks.

    Mr. President, for these many contributions to our science - his students, his colleagues, his inventions, his ideas, his vision of a coherent science of mineralogy - I am pleased and proud to introduce Hans-Peter Eugster, the 1983 Roebling Medalist.



Volume 69, pages 574-575, 1984

Acceptance of the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America for 1983


     Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences

The Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Maryland 21218

     President Roedder, Members of the Society, Guests:

     One hundred years ago this spring, a bridge built by John Augustus Roebling, father, and Washington Augustus Roebling, son, was dedicated which to this day connects Brooklyn with Manhattan across the East River. The son, of course, is the reason why I'm privileged to stand before you today and why it is appropriate to use the bridge as the theme of my brief remarks. John Augustus Roebling, or if you permit me to deanglicize his name, Hans-August Röbling, was born in Prussia in 1806. Hans-August was his first name, just like mine is Hans-Peter, shortened for American usage to Hans or John. After studying civil engineering in Berlin he moved to Pittsburgh, where he began to realize his central idea: building of bridges supported by wire ropes or steel cables. Starting with an aqueduct across the Allegheny River, graduating to a combined road-railroad bridge over the Niagara Falls, he finally gave his life to the Brooklyn bridge. He died of tetanus in 1869 after being injured while laying out the supporting towers.

     Washington Augustus Roebling completed the bridge and added to the achievements of his father. He had the leisure and means to assemble a remarkable mineral collection and to generously endow the Mineralogical Society of America. Today I am the immediate beneficiary of his generosity. In the early fifties, when we were synthesizing layered silicates, I frequently used his collection, housed in the Smithsonian Institution. I particularly remember specimen R4416, a fine paragonite we used as starting material. During those happy years at the Geophysical Laboratory, I was, in fact, working as a mineralogist, synthesizing minerals and defining their thermal stabilities, chemical and X-ray properties. What I have done since hardly fits the mold of a mineralogist, either of the geometric kind exemplified by my late teacher Paul Niggli, or of the modern TEM type represented by my office neighbor and cocelebrant, Dave Veblen. Why then should I be honored today by the Mineralogical Society, for work in experimental petrology, geochemistry and sedimentology? Aside from the very generous interpretation of their charge by the selection committee, it points to the role of mineralogy as a bridge. Paul Niggli, in one of his philosophical essays, spoke of crystallography and mineralogy as the glue, which binds together the natural sciences through the concept of order in the solid state. Glue or bridge, the architecture of the solid state certainly is a central theme for physics, chemistry, biology and geology and the Niggli message was not lost on me. However, I also belong to the lucky generation of geologists who came into their own after the war. We had new toys and new thoughts and could try anything once and almost everything worked. I agree with Connie Krauskopf that the real revolution in the earth sciences was initiated in the fifties rather than the sixties: the change from a largely descriptive to a quantitative science. I remember buying the 1951 text on igneous and metamorphic petrology by Turner and Verhoogen and taking it into the Canadian bush where it competed for my attention with black flies. Verhoogen's sections baffled me but I couldn't let go. I finally mastered that material years later after I started teaching it at Johns Hopkins. Building a bridge from chemistry to geology became and still is a passion for me, but building bridges depends on having strong anchors and towers in the lands to be joined, as John Augustus Roebling knew. My anchor in geology was built while I labored on my thesis, mapping metamorphics in the Alps, and I feel good about it, but my tower in chemistry is another matter. Its foundation, also built in Switzerland, is sound, but it pointed in the wrong direction. I was taught how to analyze rocks, but I never had a course in physical chemistry or thermodynamics and hence those symbols of Verhoogen looked so strange. I am still building and shoring up that structure and I have been lucky to have smart people teaching me during the last 25 years, from Dave Wones to John Weare. Dave was my first student and, although he'll tell you otherwise, he taught me more than I taught him. He got his Ph.D. from MIT and I never had to read his thesis and perhaps that is why we are still good friends. Dave was followed by a string of students too long to mention, but each one helped eradicate another corner of my ignorance.

     Just about the time Dave was finishing his thesis, I was asked to review a paper by Charles Milton on the Green River minerals and this started me on a second track which only now is becoming integrated with my earlier interests. I cannot explain my continued fascination with salt lakes. In fact some of my friends gently chided me for escapism and wasting my time. That may be, but it has been an enormous source of fun, excitement and adventure. Initially it was just Blair Jones and I and then Laurie Hardie joined us. Here too, bridges had to be built, from mineralogy to water chemistry to sedimentology and even to organic geochemistry. For our recent study of Great Salt Lake, for instance, Blair and I assembled a dozen specialists to carry out the necessary work and we learned what it means to organize a research team. Clearly both of us prefer one-on-one collaboration.

     Although I do not consider myself to be a mineralogist, minerals and mineral assemblages remain near the center of my interests. Looking back over 30 years to the days when Hat Yoder first introduced me to the world of hydrothermal synthesis, I realize that the central theme has been and still is the interaction of minerals with aqueous fluids, from surface waters to geothermal brines to metamorphic fluids to igneous gases; a bridge carrying water just like Roebling's aqueduct over the Allegheny River. Even my newest venture into ore deposits is launched from a watery base.

     To thank all those who have helped me in my scientific endeavors would be name dropping and selecting among my teachers, students and colleagues is too difficult. There are three people, however, that I feel compelled to acknowledge. Blair F. Jones, an early student, longstanding friend, colleague and perennial coauthor: You make it look as if it is easy to work with me, a precious illusion not shared by many. Bob Houston, southern gentleman and Indian expert of Laramie, Wyoming: You have prodded me into my new venture; the geochemistry of hydrothermal ore deposits and your friendship and the snow in the Rockies are the reasons for my yearly treck west. Finally, Elaine Koppelman, the James Beall Professor of Mathematics at Goucher College. Those of you who teach are familiar with the five-minute panic, when five minutes before the lecture an equation suddenly looks mysterious and unfathomable. As the clock ticks away and desperation mounts, you consider whether you should declare yourself sick, run away, commit suicide or just brazenly pretend to understand. That's when I call Prof. Koppelman who then calmly clarifies that tricky derivation. During the summer months she acts as my most trusted and capable field assistant, and unhesitatingly follows me to the salt lakes of Africa and the high Andes or the tin mines in China. She is also an excellent cook and, as my wife, makes life worth living. A native of Brooklyn, she is very much connected with the Brooklyn Bridge and hence to the father and son team of J. A. and W. A. Roebling. I accept this medal for both of us and we thank you for this honor and for including us in the brotherhood and sisterhood of mineralogists. Thank you very much.


Footer for links and copyright

Copyright © 1983 - 2004 Mineralogical Society of America. All rights reserved