Geotimes
In Memoriam
Konrad B. Krauskopf
Gary Ernst

On May 4, 2003, Konrad B. Krauskopf passed away peacefully in his on-campus home. He was 92 years old. Known to many as “Konnie,” he had been a member of the Stanford faculty since 1939, first as professor, then after 1976 as professor emeritus. His was a lifetime of extraordinary achievement in both geology and geochemistry.

Krauskopf received a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1934, and a second doctorate in geology at Stanford University in 1939. This educational background, both remarkably broad and deep, along with concurrent service as university instructor in the physical sciences, equipped Krauskopf for a scholarly career characterized by breathtaking interdisciplinary contributions. He made numerous original contributions in all aspects of academic performance that we deem critically important-research, instruction and public as well as professional service.

Photo of Konrad B. Krauskopf courtesy of Stanford University.

Krauskopf published a diverse set of internationally recognized and acclaimed investigations, broadly arching across the fields of hard-rock geology, petrology, aqueous geochemistry and mineral deposits. He provided seminal, pioneering investigations of the trace-element constitution of seawater, the geochemistry of ore-forming supercritical aqueous fluids and the solubility of silica. Detailed petrologic studies include illuminating the origin and petrogenetic evolution of granitoids and basement terranes in the Pacific Northwest, the volcanic eruptions of Parícutin in the Transmexican volcanic belt, and the regional petrologic development of coastal Norway. In parallel, he generated both mineral deposit maps and general geologic maps for the California Division of Mines and Geology (now the California Geological Survey) and for the U. S. Geological Survey, chiefly in the Sierra Nevada and the White-Inyo ranges of eastern California. Having provided geoscientists with pioneering, discipline-defining texts in geochemistry and physical geology over a span of five decades, Krauskopf quite literally wrote the book on application of the principles of physics and chemistry to Earth. These forward-looking works focused on and illuminated the fundamental chemical and physical foundations of the earth sciences. Special emphases have included elucidation of aqueous solution-metal complex equilibria as well as thermodynamic applications to solid-melt-fluid partitioning, published at a time when most earth scientists were mapping quadrangles. Krauskopf did that too, having published seven quadrangle maps.

Acclaimed books include: The Third Planet, Introduction to Geochemistry, Fundamentals of Physical Science, The Physical Universe, Radioactive Waste Disposal and Geology and Introduction to Physics and Chemistry. Most of these texts have run through several (up to 10!) editions.

He was a civilian member of the military geology division of the U. S. Army during World War II. In 1947, he was appointed chief of the G-2 geographic section in Tokyo, and received a citation for meritorious civilian service. Krauskopf served for more than a decade as a member, then chair, of the U. S. National Research Council Board on Radioactive Waste Management, and was responsible for an outstanding National Academy report on the subject that defined and quantified problems.

Krauskopf received many honors during his long career. He was the recipient of Fulbright, Guggenheim and National Science Foundation fellowships for research study abroad. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and in the American Philosophical Society. He served as president of the American Geological Institute in 1964, received its Ian Campbell Medal in 1984 and its Legendary Geoscientist Award in 2000. He was elected president of the Geological Society of America in 1967, and was awarded its Arthur L. Day Medal in 1961. Krauskopf served as president of the Geochemical Society in 1970 and received its V. M. Goldschmidt Medal in 1982. In 1994, he was honored with the Mineralogical Society of America Distinguished Public Service Award.

A symposium held at Stanford in December, 1999 in honor of Krauskopf resulted in the two-volume Krauskopf Volume, Frontiers in Geochemistry: I Global Inorganic Geochemistry; II Organic, Solution, and Ore Deposit Geochemistry, published jointly by Bellwether Publishing and the Geological Society of America. It is difficult to think of any other geochemist who so faithfully served the earth science profession in such far-ranging ways, being enormously impactful in all of them: as geologist, geochemist, and science/technology advisor to the nation.


Ernst is the Benjamin M. Page Professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. He studies the petrotectonic evolution of Circumpacific contractional mountain belts.

The American Geological Institute gave its first Legendary Geoscientist Award in 1999. The award recognizes a geoscientist who has produced scientific achievements and service to the earth sciences that have lasting, historic value.

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