Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 20, 2020

How American Mineralogist and the Mineralogical Society of America influenced a career in mineralogy, petrology, and plate pushing, and thoughts on mineralogy’s future role

  • W.G. Ernst
From the journal American Mineralogist


My geologic research began at Carleton College. I studied heavy minerals in some midcontinent orthoquartzites, publishing my very first paper in American Mineralogist in 1954. As a master’s candidate at the University of Minnesota, I investigated igneous differentiation in a diabase-granophyre sill of the Duluth Gabbro Complex. Later, in a Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University, I became Joe Boyd’s apprentice at the Geophysical Laboratory (GL), and for a time was phase-equilibrium god of the Na-amphiboles. Doctoral research earned me an offer of a UCLA assistant professorship as a mineralogist in 1960. There, I continued pursuing amphibole P-T stability relations in lab and field. My glaucophane phase equilibrium research would later be found to have instead crystallized Na-magnesiorichterite. However, amphibole research led me to map field occurrences of HP-LT (high P-low T) blueschists of the Franciscan Complex. Thus, when plate tectonics emerged in the late 1960s, I was deep in the subduction zone. My recent studies focused on the petrology and geochemistry of oceanic crustal rocks, Californian calc-alkaline arcs, and coesite ± microdiamond-bearing crustal margin rocks in various parts of Eurasia. Other works treated global mineral resources and population, mineralogy and human health, and early Earth petrotectonic evolution. I tried to work on important problems, but mainly studied topics that fired my interest.

For the future, I see the existential challenge facing humanity and the biosphere as the imperative to stop our overdrafting of mineral resources. This will require reaching a dynamic equilibrium between the use and replenishment of near-surface resources (i.e., nutrients) essential for life. Earth scientists are planetary stewards, so we must lead the way forward in life-supporting mineral usage, recycling, substitution, and dematerialization. In any event, sustainable development will soon return to the Earth’s Critical Zone of life because Mother Nature—the ruling terrestrial economist—abhors long-term overdrafting of resources[1].


My teaching and research efforts have been guided by far too many mineralogists and institutions for me to provide a proper list of acknowledgments—but you know who you are! However, two universities, UCLA and Stanford, supported my scholarly efforts for 30 yr each. I owe these very special academic institutions, and their student-colleague-teachers (many people have been simultaneously all three) a profound debt of gratitude. Without their support, I would have learned little. Allen Glazner, Frank Spear, and Mickey Gunter provided helpful feedback on a draft manuscript in their attempts to improve this review of my scientific journey. Last, Brad Hacker, Peter Heaney, and Mark Cloos reviewed this work for American Mineralogist; Cal Barnes served as associate editor. To these and all other colleagues, I express my sincere thanks for the help!

References cited

Armstrong, K., Frost, D.J., McCammon, C.A., Rubie, D.C., and Boffa Ballaran, T. (2019) Deep magma ocean formation set the oxidation state of Earth’s mantle. Science, 365, 903–906.10.1126/science.aax8376Search in Google Scholar

Bailey, E.H., Irwin, W.P., and Jones, D.L. (1970) On-land Mesozoic oceanic crust in California Coast Ranges. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 700-C, p. 70–81.Search in Google Scholar

Carman, J.H., and Gilbert, M.C. (1983) Experimental studies on glaucophane stability. American Journal of Science, 283-A, 414–437.Search in Google Scholar

Carson, R.L. (1962) Silent Spring, 400 p. Houghton Mifflin; Mariner Books. ISBN 0-618-24906-0.Search in Google Scholar

Chopin, C. (1984) Coesite and pure pyrope in high-grade blueschists of the Western Alps: a first record and some consequences. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 86, 107–118.10.1007/BF00381838Search in Google Scholar

Diamond, J. (2006) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 575p. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN J-4295-2724-2.Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1954) The St. Peter sandstone-Glenwood shale contact. American Mineralogist, 39, 1025–103l.Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1961) Stability relations of glaucophane. American Journal of Science, 259, 735–765.10.2475/ajs.259.10.735Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1965) Mineral parageneses in Franciscan metamorphic rocks, Panoche Pass, California. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 76, 879–914.10.1130/0016-7606(1965)76[879:MPIFMR]2.0.CO;2Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1971) Metamorphic zonations on presumably subducted lithospheric plates from Japan, California, and the Alps. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 34, 43–59.10.1007/BF00376030Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1976) Petrologic Phase Equilibria, 333p. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco.Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1991) Evolution of the lithosphere, and inferred increasing size of mantle convection cells over geologic time. In L.L. Purchuk, Ed., Progress in Metamorphic and Magmatic Petrology (Korzhinskii Volume), p. 369–386. Cambridge University Press, U.K.10.1017/CBO9780511564444.016Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1993) Metamorphism of Franciscan tectonostratigraphic assemblage, Pacheco Pass area, east-central Diablo Range, California Coast Ranges. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 105, 618–636.10.1130/0016-7606(1993)105<0618:MOFTAP>2.3.CO;2Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (1999) Mesozoic petrotectonic development of the Sawyers Bar suprasubduction-zone arc, central Klamath Mountains, northern California. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 111, 1217–1232.10.1130/0016-7606(1999)111<1217:MPDOTS>2.3.CO;2Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G. (2001) Subduction, ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism, and regurgitation of buoyant crustal slices—implications for arcs and continental growth. In D. Rubie and R. van der Hilst, Eds., Processes and Consequences of Deep Subduction, p. 253–275. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors.10.1016/S0031-9201(01)00231-XSearch in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G., Nelson, C.A., and Hall, C.A. Jr. (1993) Geology and metamorphic mineral assemblages of Precambrian and Cambrian rocks of the central White-Inyo Range, eastern California. California Division of Mines and Geology, Map Sheet 46, scale 1:62,500, accompanying text, 26 p.Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G., Martens, U., and Valencia, V. (2009) U-Pb ages of detrital zircons in Pacheco Pass metagraywackes: Sierran-Klamath source of mid- and late cretaceous Franciscan deposition and underplating. Tectonics, 28, TC6011, 20 p. doi:10.1029/2008TC00235210.1029/2008TC002352Search in Google Scholar

Ernst, W.G., Sleep, N.H., and Tsujimori, T. (2016) Plate-tectonic evolution of the Earth: bottom-up and top-down mantle circulation. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 53, 1103–1120.10.1139/cjes-2015-0126Search in Google Scholar

Graham, C.M., Maresch, W.V., Welch, M.D., and Pawley, A.R. (1989) Experimental studies on amphiboles: a review with thermodynamic perspectives. European Journal of Mineralogy, 1, 535–555.10.1127/ejm/1/4/0535Search in Google Scholar

Harari, Y.N. (2014) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harvill Secker, London, 456 p.Search in Google Scholar

Hashimoto, M., Igi, S., Seki, Y., Banno, S., and Kojima, G. (1970) Metamorphic facies map of Japan: scale 1:2,000,000. Geological Survey of Japan, Tokyo.Search in Google Scholar

Henry, C. (1990) L’unité a coésite du massif Dora-Maira dans son cadre pétrologique et structural (Alpes occidentales, Italie). Université de Paris VI, 453 p.Search in Google Scholar

IPBES (2019) Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. In S. Diaz, J. Settele, E.S. Brondizio, H.T. Ngo, M. Gueze, J. Agard, A. Arneth, P. Balvanera, K.M.A. Chan, L.A. Garibaldi, and others, Eds., Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 56 p. IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. in Google Scholar

IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri, and L.A. Meyer, Eds.). IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 151 p.Search in Google Scholar

Jackson, J., McKenzie, D., Priestley, K., and Emmerson, B. (2008) New views on the structure and rheology of the lithosphere. Journal of the Geological Society of London, 165, 453–465.10.1144/0016-76492007-109Search in Google Scholar

Jackson, T., and Victor, P.A. (2019) Unraveling the claims for (and against) green growth. Science, 366, 950–951. doi 10.1126/science.aay0749.10.1126/science.aay0749Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Jenkins, D.M., and Corona, J.C. (2006) The role of water in the synthesis of glaucophane. American Mineralogist, 90, 1062–1068.10.2138/am.2006.2014Search in Google Scholar

Kaneko, Y., Katayama, I., Yamamoto, H., Misawa, K., Ishikawa, M., Rehman, H.U., Kausar, A.B., and Shirashi, K. (2003) Timing of Himalayan ultrahigh-pressure metamorphism: Sinking rate and subduction angle of the Indian continental crust beneath Asia. Journal of Metamorphic Geology, 21, 589–599.10.1046/j.1525-1314.2003.00466.xSearch in Google Scholar

Koons, P.O. (1982) An experimental investigation of the behavior of amphibole in the system Na2O-MgO-Al2O3-SiO2-H2O. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 79, 258–267.10.1007/BF00371517Search in Google Scholar

Kylander-Clark, A.R.C., Hacker, B.R., and Mattinson, C.M. (2012) Size and exhumation rate of ultrahigh-pressure terranes linked to orogenic stage. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 321–322, 115–120.10.1016/j.epsl.2011.12.036Search in Google Scholar

Liou, J.G., Zhang, R., Ernst, W.G., Rumble, D., and Maruyama, S. (1998) High pressure minerals from deeply subducted metamorphic rocks. In H.K. Mao and R.J. Hemley, Eds., Ultrahigh Pressure Mineralogy, 37, p. 33–96. Review in Mineralogy, Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, Virginia.10.1515/9781501509179-004Search in Google Scholar

Liou, J.G., Ernst, W.G., Tsujimori, T., Zhang, R., and Jahn, B.M. (2009) Ultrahigh-P minerals and metamorphic terranes—The view from China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 35, 199–231.10.1016/j.jseaes.2008.10.012Search in Google Scholar

Maresch, W.V. (1977) Experimental studies on glaucophane: an analysis of present knowledge. Tectonophysics, 43, 109–125.10.1016/0040-1951(77)90008-7Search in Google Scholar

Matson, P., Clark, W.C, and Andersson, K. (2016) Pursuing Sustainability: a Guide to the Science and Practice. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.Search in Google Scholar

Michard, A., Henry, C., and Chopin, C. (1995) Structures in UHPM rocks: A case study from the Alps. In R.G. Coleman and X. Wang, Eds., Ultrahigh Pressure Metamorphism, p. 132–158. Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511573088.005Search in Google Scholar

Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart, Eds. (2018) Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, vol. II, 1515 pp. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.10.7930/NCA4.2018Search in Google Scholar

Ruddiman, W.F. (2005) Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum, 202 p. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.Search in Google Scholar

Schopf, J.W. (1982) Earth’s Earliest Biosphere: Its Origins and Evolution, 543 p. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.Search in Google Scholar

Smith, D.C. (1984) Coesite in clinopyroxene in the Caledonides and its implications for geodynamics. Nature, 310, 641–644.10.1038/310641a0Search in Google Scholar

Sobolev, N.V., and Shatsky, V.S. (1990) Diamond inclusions in garnets from metamorphic rocks: a new environment for diamond formation. Nature, 343, 742–746.10.1038/343742a0Search in Google Scholar

Stephens, L., Fuller, D., Boivin, N., Rick, T.,Gauthier, N., Kay, A., Marwick, B., Armstrong, C.G., Barton, C.M., and others. (2019) Archaeological assessment reveals Earth’s early transformation through land use. Science, 365, 897–902.10.1126/science.aax1192Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Taylor, S.R. (1992) Solar System Evolution, 460 p. Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Tropper, C.E., Manning, C.E., Essene, E.J., and Kao, L.S. (2000) The compositional variation of synthetic sodic amphiboles at high and ultra-high pressures. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 139, 146–162.10.1007/PL00007668Search in Google Scholar

Wetherill, G.W. (1990) Formation of the Earth. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 18, 205–256.10.1146/annurev.ea.18.050190.001225Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2019-11-25
Accepted: 2020-03-16
Published Online: 2020-09-20
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 8.2.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow