Earth and Planetary Science
EPS Planetary Science

Adolf Pabst

Adolf Pabst (1899 - 1990)

Adolf Pabst was born on November 30, 1899, in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with honors from the University of Illinois in 1925, his education having been interrupted by the First World War. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and, following graduation, came to Berkeley to study geology under A.C. Lawson and George D. Louderback, and mineralogy under Arthur S. Eakle. Eakle was aging and about to retire and could not have been much of an inspiration to Pabst; so it is not surprising that Pabst, under Louderback's guidance, chose a petrologic rather than a purely mineralogic subject for his thesis, which was an investigation of the inclusions in the granitic plutons of the Sierra Nevada. As with all of his work, this thesis was based on careful field observations coupled with chemical analyses made by himself and accurate mineralogic and petrographic descriptions, and still serves today as the basic reference on this subject.

His Ph.D. was completed in just three years and was awarded to him in 1928. Even before its completion and at Louderback's suggestion, Pabst applied for and won an American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellowship to do postdoctoral studies with V.M. Goldschmidt at the Universitets Mineralogiske Institute in Oslo, Norway. There he met and married Gudrun Lisabeth Bert, who, after over 40 years, predeceased him. He returned to Berkeley as an Instructor in 1929 and was appointed Assistant Professor in 1931 and Full Professor in 1944. After his retirement in 1967 he was recalled as Research Geologist to the Department of Geology and Geophysics for many years. Until 1984 he published yearly at least one and sometimes as many as five papers, together with book reviews and commentaries. After his wife died, he moved to an apartment a mile from campus, walking to and from his office, where he worked five to 10 hours every day. He was still in good health at the time of his 90th birthday three months before his death, at which time he enjoyed the acclaim of his friends and former students who had come from all over the world to celebrate the occasion at The Faculty Club. He died in Alta Bates Hospital on April 3, 1990, from complications following a fall in his apartment in early February.

The outstanding quality and importance of all of Pabst's research was recognized by his peers when he was awarded the Roebling Medal in 1965. This medal is the preeminent mark of distinction in American mineralogy, indeed, probably in the entire mineralogical world, and is based not on one important contribution to this field but on the importance of the entire scientific output of the recipient over his professional career. The outstanding characteristic of his research was great attention to detail. He never failed, for example, to correct all errors in his publications by meticulous corrigenda.

Among other honors that Pabst received was a Guggenheim Fellowship to study at the British Museum of Natural History in 1938-1939, and a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Vienna in 1955-56. The Friedrich Becke Medal was awarded to him in 1974 by the Austrian Mineralogical Society. At that time, only about six other scientists had been awarded this medal, including Backlund, Eskola, and Machatschki. In 1978, the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies presented him with their "Honorary Award." Perhaps of even more significance than these honors is his having served as President of the Crystallographic Society of America (1948-49), of the Mineralogical Society of America (1961), and of the International Mineralogical Association (1980). In addition, he held memberships in seven other important mineralogical societies.

Pabst held important posts on the Nominating Committee and the Publications Committee of the American Crystallographic Association and on the Subcommittee on Standards in Crystal Optics of the American Standards Association. In addition to his Presidency of the Mineralogical Society of America, he had served on the Nominating Committee, the Mineralogical Abstracts Committee, the Nomenclature Committee, the Roebling Medal Committee, the Committee to Investigate the International Union of Mineralogists, and the Committee on Honors for the 50th Anniversary of that august society. In the National Research Council he served as a member of the U.S. National Committee for Crystallography. He was a member of the Mineralogical Society of London, and an Honorary member of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Finally, he was a member of The Faculty Club (since 1927), the Sierra Club (since 1935), and Sigma Xi.

At the University of California he served on a number of committees including Chairman of the Board of Editors, University of California Publications in Geological Sciences, and member of the Advisory Committee of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. He was a long-time member of the Herbert Evans History of Science Dinner Club and took much interest in the roots of geology.

He was indefatigable in his efforts to promote the study of mineralogy all over the world. He served on the editorial board of the Mineralogical Society of America for many years, was Associate Editor of the American Mineralogist, served as contributor and as abstractor for Chemical Abstracts, also as contributor and abstractor for Mineralogical Abstracts. He was a referee for many journals, such as Acta Crystallographica, American Mineralogist, American Journal of Physics, Canadian Mineralogist, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Journal of the American Ceramics Society, Inorganic Chemistry, and the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

During his retirement, Pabst was appointed Distinguished Visiting Professor of Mineralogy and Crystallography at the University of Nevada, Reno (1967-68), and Professor of Mineralogy at the University of Oregon (1968-69). He was a Fulbright Professor at the Universities of Kiel and Berlin in 1970-71.

Anecdotes about Adolf are many and generally fall into two diverse categories. The first and largest category is that of his extraordinary help to others, both mineralogically and in other ways--he never stinted in his efforts to help students and friends with mineralogical problems, and he always gave generously to help students. For many years he worked with geologists from the State Division of Mines and Geology, opening his laboratory facilities to their use. One of the fruits of this cooperation was the naming of seven new minerals from the Sierra Nevada in Fresno County. On another occasion, State geologists found a new limestone-metamorphic mineral which proved to be an analogue of the barium titanium mineral benitoite, tin replacing titanium. In his honor the new mineral was named pabstite, after Pabst had visited the field location and confirmed the properties of the new mineral himself. Pabst was consulted over many years in the identification and properties of rare minerals by the mineralogy curators at the California Academy of Sciences. He was elected a Fellow of this Academy in 1967.

The second category concerns his rebellion against Department and University authority. Department chairmen were his particular targets for sharply worded notes about rules, regulations, doors left unlocked, lights left on at night, and personal behavior of his colleagues. But although somewhat gruff in appearance, he was always courteous and kind. He was totally devoted to his science, to his teaching, to his students, colleagues, and friends, and to his university.

To preserve his memory, interested individuals may direct contributions to graduate student fellowships in the UC Berkeley Earth & Planetary Science Department. Checks should be made out to "The Regents of the University of California" and addressed to Judith Coyote, Department of Earth and Planetary Science, 307 McCone Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720-4767.

In Memoriam written by Garniss H. Curtis, Bruce A. Bolt, and John Verhoogen