Honorary Fellowships

Very rarely, the IAG bestows its most prestigious award of Honorary Fellowship on scientists of great distinction, recognizing the huge contribution they have made to geoanalytical science over a lifetime.

Our first such award was made in 2004 to Professor Stanley Greenfield for his pioneering work in the 1960s on the development of the inductively coupled plasma (ICP) as a spectroscopic source.

2004 – Professor Stanley Greenfield

Prof Stan Greenfield receiving his IAG commemorative scroll from Prof Phil Potts

In the tough world of industrial analysis in the mid-1960s, Stan – as he was universally known – and his colleagues in the analytical group of Albright & Wilson Limited, a UK manufacturing company specializing in phosphorous-based chemicals, were grappling with the problem of interference from phosphorous and aluminium on the determination of calcium by flame photometry. They knew that these effects could be reduced if the flame temperature was increased. Higher temperature oxy-cyanogen and hydrogen-fluorine flames were considered but judged too hazardous for general use. Accordingly, they turned to plasmas rather than chemical flames in the expectation that their much higher temperatures could form the basis of an interference-free emission source.

In November 1964, in a landmark paper in The Analyst, they published the results of their investigations into two plasma sources: a d.c. arc plasma jet based on that used by Margoshes and Scribner; and a high frequency induction torch modified from that described by Reed for growing refractory crystals. They concluded that the induction torch, in which argon flowed through concentric quartz tubes surrounded by an induction coil, was far superior because it did not involve electrodes and gave lower background signals and better detection limits for many elements. Stan and his team went on to develop their induction torch as a successful photon source for ICP optical emission spectrometry. Their work laid the foundation for the development of instrumentation that has had an enormous impact on geochemistry and analytical science more widely.

In 1979 Stan was awarded the SAC Gold Medal by the Royal Society of Chemistry. His connection with the RSC was long lasting. He was President of the Analytical Division from 1982-1984 and for his retiring address he gave a talk on sauces of the culinary rather than spectroscopic kind, reflecting his great love and knowledge of food and wine.

After leaving industry, he moved to Loughborough University as an Industrial Professor, receiving a D.Sc. from that university.

Sadly, Stan died on 4th September 2019 in his 100th year, but his legacy lives on in thousands of laboratories throughout the world.

2008 – Professor Mike Thompson

One has only to scan the titles of the more than 200 papers that Professor Thompson – Mike T as he is affectionately known to his friends in the IAG – has published to get a sense of the breadth and depth of his contributions to geochemistry and analytical and metrological  science more widely over nearly five decades. A 1977 paper with John Webb sets out the analytical requirements for exploration geochemistry. Although the analytical techniques employed have changed enormously – in those days atomic absorption spectrometry and colorimetry were widely used – the principles of fitness for purpose, cost effectiveness, having an effective sampling strategy, and the vital need for geochemists, analytical chemists, geologists and geophysicists to work closely together remain as true today.

Towards the end of the paper, predicting future trends, he foresaw that “plasma-excitation spectrophotometry and quadripole [sic] mass spectrometry” would become increasingly important. Mike subsequently published some of the first papers on the combination of techniques such as laser ablation and hydride generation with ICP spectrometry.

An early major achievement was organizing his roughly twenty analytical staff in the famous Applied Geochemistry Research Group at Imperial College, London to produce the million data points that became the Wolfson Geochemical Atlas of England and Wales – a landmark publication in 1978. Robust quality control procedures ensured coherence of the data across 50,000 samples.

Mike has put his great skill in interpreting large sets of analytical data to good use throughout his career, particularly in the field of proficiency testing (PT). In 2006, with Steve Ellison and Roger Wood, he wrote the international harmonized protocol for the proficiency testing of analytical chemistry laboratories and for many years has worked on two major PT schemes in food (FAPAS) and geochemical (GeoPT) analysis.

Mike was never afraid to challenge analytical orthodoxy or ruffle metrological feathers over such concepts as traceability and uncertainty. In a 1997 paper he argued that a consensus value of a measurand obtained, for example, from a proficiency test, met the criteria of a certified reference material. It took twenty-three years for that concept to be grudgingly incorporated into ISO Guide 17035!

The thought-provoking titles of some of his recent papers, for example, Is your ‘homogeneity test’ really useful? What exactly is uncertainty?  Sense and Traceability, Precision in chemical analysis: A critical survey of uses and abuses, and Dark uncertainty, should alert readers that they will find within Mike’s characteristic mix of information and insight.

Mike has worked tirelessly to spread the gospel of analytical rigour combined with metrological realism. For twenty-five years he chaired the Statistical Subcommittee of the Analytical Methods Committee of the Analytical Division of the Royal Society of Chemistry and in 2016 received their Anne Bennett Memorial Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution. He was Editor of the RSC’s AMC Technical Briefs since its inauguration in 1998.

A special symposium was held at Burlington House, London on 15 July 2008 to celebrate Mike’s outstanding contributions in analytical innovation in the fields of geochemical, environmental, exploration and food sciences. To mark this occasion, Mike was presented with his IAG award of Honorary Life Fellow.

2015 – Dr Henry Longerich

Henry was a pioneer in the application of laser ablation ICP-MS to geoanalysis. Not only did he explore and advance our understanding of the complexities of the technique itself, but he established a renowned research group, members of which have gone on to make their own major contributions.

As we seek to probe and understand the infinite complexities of the interlocking geochemical systems of the Earth, we are immediately confronted by the fact that the geosphere is heterogeneous at all scales – from tectonic plates to mineral grain boundaries.

For much of the last century, to analyse our samples we had to either cook them up for hours or even days with very aggressive mixtures of acids, or heat them to very high temperatures with large amounts of flux, which we subsequently had to get rid of.  Such destructive sample preparation techniques meant that we had to throw away – deny ourselves access to – all the vitally important spatial information that put those atoms in context.

What if we could wave a magic wand and not only set those atoms free from their cosy crystal lattices where they had slumbered for millions and even billions of years and chase them directly into our instruments so we could identify them and count them, but also know precisely – down to a few micrometres – where they had come from?

Our laser beams are that magic wand and have been used in conjunction with ICP spectrometry since the early days of ICP-AES by people such as Mike Thompson [see above] and later in ICP-MS by Alan Gray. Nowadays LA-ICP-MS is a hugely important technique used across many fields of geochemical research and beyond.

Henry had the foresight to see the potential of firstly ICP-MS, when he attended a meeting of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry in Boston in 1984.  On his return, he persuaded a colleague, Dave Strong, to develop a successful application to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for funds to purchase a SCIEX ICP–MS instrument. Later, in 1988, he recognised the power of laser ablation for sample introduction into the ICP. Again, with NSERC funding, he purchased the components to build a Nd:YAG ablation system specifically for the in situ analysis of minerals. Crucially, these included a petrographic microscope. The observation systems of early commercial LA systems were virtually useless for geological samples.

Henry had joined the Department of Earth Sciences at Memorial University as an assistant professor in 1978 where, for over 25 years, he plied his trade as one of the world’s premier analytical geochemists.

Henry and his group systematically explored and unravelled the complex physical and chemical processes, such as elemental fractionation, that occurred as laser energy coupled to solid materials. In 1993 they were awarded the Hawley Medal of the Mineralogical Association of Canada for the best paper in their Journal in 1992 entitled The application of laser ablation microprobe-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LAM-ICP-MS) to in situ trace element determinations in minerals.

These exciting new developments encouraged young researchers from all over the world to join the MUN group. They flourished and their talents were nurtured in the atmosphere that Henry created at Memorial. Many of them, such as Simon Jackson, Paul Sylvester and Detlef Günther went on to make their own major contributions to geoanalytical science. This is something of which Henry can also be justly proud.

2018 – Professor Jon Woodhead

After completing his D.Phil at the University of Oxford, Jon took up a post-doctoral research position at the Australian National University in 1988. He then moved to the University of Melbourne and in 1994, with Prof Janet Hergt, set up the Isotope Geochemistry Group. This quickly gained a worldwide reputation for the broad application of isotope and trace element geochemistry to problems in the Earth and environmental sciences, with a particular emphasis on technique development and innovation in MC-ICP-MS and laser ablation technologies, mantle geochemistry, geochronology and palaeoclimate studies. Jon is currently an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Earth Science.

Jon and his group have a prodigious publication record in many fields of isotope geochemistry. They have developed high-quality analytical protocols focussed on generating accurate data with excellent precision, highlighting and deriving corrections required for this. Isotope reference values they have published are used by the community for NIST glass and various zircon reference materials amongst others.

Our ability to determine accurately the elemental and isotopic compositions of rocks, minerals, soils and waters is central to our understanding of the processes that have formed, and continuously modify the Earth. Modern analytical techniques such as LA-ICP-MS are capable of generating huge amounts of raw data. Just processing these, let alone interpreting them geochemically has become a mammoth task. Jon and his colleagues developed a powerful data processing and visualisation freeware package, Iolite, that is now available commercially and used by geoscientists all over the world.

As well as his research on deep mantle processes and kimberlites, Jon has revolutionised international speleothem research, paving the way for precise dating of palaeoclimate records beyond 500,000 years.   

In addition to writing his own papers, from 2009 to early 2016 Jon was an outstanding Joint Editor in Chief of our journal Geostandards and Geoanalytical Research, He was known to everybody as a fair-minded, diplomatic and constructive editor, who would write lengthy, closely-argued letters to authors advising on how to improve the scientific level of their papers.

Jon was awarded his Honorary Fellowship of the IAG at the Geoanalysis 2018 conference, held at Macquarie University, Sydney.