The Importance of the Pioneering Work by
V.M. Goldschmidt for Modern Geochemistry

K. H. Wedepohl Geochemisches Institut, Goldschmidtstr. 1, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany

In his first period as a scientist Goldschmidt (1888-1947) investigated contact metamorphism in the Oslo area and regional metamorphism and magmatism in southern Norway and treated minerals and melts in a new way as products of chemical reactions. With the appointment as director of the Norwegian National Raw Materials Laboratory he got the opportunity to install the new tools of X-ray diffractometry and X-ray spectrography in the early twenties. His first topics were the search for elements No 72 and 61 and the structure and composition of REE minerals. In the structural analysis of REE sesquioxides he discovered the lanthanide contraction of REE ions and with the chemical analyses of REE minerals he demonstrated the higher crustal abundance of even against odd numbered and of light against heavy REE. Eu and Ce anomalies were already explained by him as products of reducing and oxidizing natural environments, respectively. With the size of the O2- known from ion refraction (Wasastjerna) Goldschmidt calculated the ionic size of numerous elements from structural analyses of some 200 oxides provided by his coworkers. With the discovery of the rules of correlations between ionic size and atomic shell structure and of interelement replacement in minerals and artificial compounds he initiated the field of "Crystal Chemistry". Since 1922 Goldschmidt estimated the distribution of the elements between the major units of the total earth on the basis of their abundances in the iron, troilite and silicate fraction of meteorites. After the appointment to the chair of mineralogy and petrology at the University of Göttingen (Germany) in 1929 he got the chance to install more sensitive analytical equipment. With optical emission spectrography (excitation by carbon arc) of numerous representative rocks and minerals Goldschmidt and his coworkers investigated in a period of 7 years the geochemical behavior of the rare alkalies and earth alkalies, of B, Sc, Ga, Ge, As, Se, Y and Ag and determined the abundance of Au and of the Pt group elements in iron meteorites. This information about the geochemical behavior of certain minor elements in the crust and in meteorites supplemented his earlier conclusions on their crystal chemistry and distribution between major units of the globe. His coworker Minami was the first to analyze the REE in abundant rocks (shale composites) after chemical preconcentration. The accumulation of certain elements as for instance Ge and As in coal ashes demonstrated the importance to analyze organic materials for their inclusion in geochemical cycles.

Goldschmidt's highly successful period as the leading geochemist and outstanding scientist was cruelly interrupted by his politically forced return to Oslo, by his arrestment after the German occupation of Norway and his escape to Sweden and England and finally by his early death in 1947 from a cerebral hemorrhage.