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Dr Brian Mason

BRIAN MASON - Ph.D. University of Stockholm (1943).

This eminent geologist retired from his position at the Smithsonian Institution in 1984. However his active life didn't allow him to stop work and so he has held an emeritus position there for the last 17 years. His specialty is with meteorites now. His work as a mineralogist and geochemist included studying moon rocks brought back from the Apollo flights and subsequently meteorites collected in Antarctica.

Dr Mason's connection with Christchurch goes back to his childhood, his education at Christchurch Boys High School and subsequently Canterbury University College where he obtained his first degree in 1936 followed by Masters degrees in chemistry and geology. A post graduate travelling fellowship to Europe in 1939 turned into a longer expedition than planned because of the war and he did not return to New Zealand until 1944. He had planned to study in Norway and even started there but during the German invasion he escaped to Sweden and obtained a PhD from the University of Stockholm.

He was able to leave Sweden in 1943 and travel to England where he met Sir Ernest Marsden, then the Secretary of the DSIR. Marsden hired him to come back to New Zealand and work at the Dominion Laboratory in Wellington. The required equipment was not available until after the war so Dr Mason returned to Canterbury College as a lecturer in geology where he remained for the next three years.

Fifty five years later Dr Mason is still working and currently concentrating on Antarctic meteorites. He began the work in May 1978 and that lead to the identification of the first lunar meteorite. His biography has been written by Simon Nathan "From Mountains to Meteorites", published by Geological Society of New Zealand as miscellaneous publication 109.

"Brian Mason is known to generations of geochemists through his seminal text book "Principals of Geochemistry". He has played a leading part in understanding in the nature of the solar system through his studies of meteorites and lunar rocks. In recent years he has examined and classified thousands of meteorites collected from Antarctica. He has returned many times to his roots in New Zealand, and has undertaken research in the Southern Alps and on the West Coast."

'From Mountains to Meteorites'
Simon Nathan

In his words there is a tradition in the United States for the creation of endowments and the need for funds for scientific research. In July 1991 he established the "Brian Mason Scientific & Technical Trust" which is incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957 with appropriate taxation exemptions.

Please view the Geological Society web page for information on purchasing the booklet 'From Mountains to Meteorites'

Meteorite display - Canterbury Museum
Meteorite display - Canterbury Museum
Meteorite display - Canterbury Museum

The Dr. Brian Mason meteorite exhibit, Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand
Photos on this page are courtesy of Canterbury Museum

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- This page last updated: 4 July, 2001 -