Earth and Planetary Science
EPS Near-Surface Geochemistry and Geobiology

Charles Meyer

Charles Meyer (1915 - 1987)

Charles Meyer, Professor of Geology Emeritus, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 72 in Sedona, Arizona, on November 15, 1987 after a 34-year association with the University of California at Berkeley. He is survived by his wife, Virginia, and by two sons, Charles and Richard, and their families.

Meyer was born on September 30, 1915 in St. Louis, Missouri, where he lived throughout his early years. In 1933 he enrolled in Washington University in that city, graduating four years later with an A.B. degree in geology; he received the M.S. degree in 1939. As a freshman, he met Virginia Borrenpohl, also a freshman from St. Louis, and during their four undergraduate years at Washington University the two became close friends. In 1940 they were married and became lifelong companions. In 1939, Meyer was awarded a graduate fellowship at Harvard University where he studied the geology of metalliferous deposits under two eminent and inspiring authorities, L.C. Graton and Donald H. McLaughlin. After two years at Harvard he received the M.A. degree and moved on to Butte, Montana, as Research Geologist for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

At Butte, Meyer had access to one of the world's largest, most varied, and most productive hydrothermal ore deposits, and he came under the influence of Reno H. Sales, the Anaconda Company's innovative chief geologist, who anticipated an intensive study of the Butte deposits. For his part Meyer brought to Butte an extraordinary breadth of interest and ability and a rare talent for knowing how to approach a problem. The two men collaborated easily and became close friends. To supplement field investigation a fully equipped up-to-date research laboratory was established in immediate conjunction with the Butte mine. Supported and encouraged by Sales, Meyer set an impressive standard for integrated field-laboratory studies as he mapped, analyzed, and described in detail the mineralogy, chemistry, and structural relationships of the Butte veins. His studies were reported in a series of publications from 1948 to 1951, jointly with Sales, which had a revolutionary impact on the understanding of hydrothermal veins and associated wall-rock alteration. In 1950 he was awarded the Ph.D. by Harvard University.

In 1953, after twelve happy and productive years in Butte, Charles Meyer joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, while maintaining close ties with the Anaconda Company. He quickly attracted to Berkeley talented graduate students having an interest in ore deposits, and under his supervision these students investigated a variety of metalliferous deposits around the world. To complement these basic field studies, Meyer initiated a program of geochemical experiments involving chemical systems relevant to hydrothermal processes. This program, one of the first of its kind, resulted in a sequence of publications between 1957 and 1970, jointly with J.J. Hemley and others, that contributed significantly to understanding alteration processes and the transport of ore metals by aqueous fluids. Over the years Meyer's research interests came to encompass metalliferous deposits of all types and all ages in all parts of the world, and through extensive travel he acquired a personal acquaintance with a remarkable number of deposits. Dozens of geologists in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, South America, and Australia spent time in the field with him, profited from his perceptive expertise, and became lasting friends. The scope of Meyer's observations and thinking is exhibited in his Presidential Address to the Society of Economic Geologists (1972), entitled Evolution of Ore-forming Processes with Geologic Time, in his paper (1981) entitled Ore-forming Processes in Geologic History, and finally in Ore Metals through Geologic History published in Science in 1985. These publications present a genetic synthesis of metalliferous deposits and document significant transitions in the progressive chemical evolution of the earth's surficial environment and in the tectonic evolution of its crust.

Over the years Meyer was accorded numerous honors. In 1960 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent most of a year visiting ore deposits in Africa, Europe, and Australia. He was Visiting Professor at Harvard University (1963), Visiting Professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia (1968), McKinstry In Memoriam Lecturer at Harvard (1969), and Australian-American Foundation Lecturer in Adelaide and Perth (1973). In 1971 he was elected President of the Society of Economic Geologists, and in 1982, in recognition of his extraordinary scientific breadth and ability, he was awarded the Penrose Gold Medal by that society and was named its first International Lecturer: 1982 in Japan, Australia, South Africa, and Chile and 1983 in London, Liege, Nancy, and Heidelberg.

Charles Meyer contributed much to the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Berkeley. He participated fully in all aspects of departmental operations and served as department chairman from 1965 until 1970. Improvement of the departmental capability and product was a constant objective. He treated everyone--students, staff, and colleagues--with friendliness and respect, and to all he gave generously of his time and talent. His advice and assistance were sought both by colleagues and students, for he had great enthusiasm for science and a rare critical ability to evaluate evidence and clarify problems. His enthusiastic approach to geological problems was closely coupled with a commitment to excellence and scientific honesty. "If all else fails, look at it" was a frequent admonition. These attributes were always evident in his courses and in his dealings with students. Courses taught by Meyer were meticulously prepared, up to date and challenging, and they were invariably rated among the very best. He inspired excellence and loyalty in his students. Every year for 25 years prior to his retirement in 1980 one or more Ph.D. candidates under his personal supervision received degrees. These former students, now widely scattered, include many of notable reputation and accomplishment and are a credit to the University of California.

Throughout their lives together, Chuck and Jinny Meyer were an inseparable team. Jinny invariably accompanied Chuck on his global travels, and she participated in his work as critic, adviser, and editor. Their home in Berkeley was a warm friendly place where colleagues, students, and non-academic friends were welcomed. The Meyers liked people from all walks of life; it was fun to be with them. To an unusual degree they opened their home to students and their families, often treating them to dinner and sharing their experiences through international travelogues. Many close relationships resulted from these get-togethers.

In 1982 the Meyers moved from Berkeley to Sedona, Arizona, where they built a delightful home across the Verde Valley from Jerome, site of pre-Cambrian massive copper sulfide deposits and the area where Chuck did some of his last exploration work. Until his untimely death he continued geological activities from his home in Sedona, writing, traveling, lecturing, and serving as Adjunct Professor at the University of Arizona at Tucson.

At Berkeley and around the world Charles Meyer is remembered fondly by a host of friends whose lives he touched. His legacy is his unbridled enthusiasm for science and his high standard of integrity, of accomplishment, and of loyalty to his wife, to his students, colleagues and friends, and to his profession.

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 Leo Brewer, George H. Brimhall, Charles M. Gilbert, Richard L. Hay, and Joseph A. Pask