News: Earthworks in progress

How Mining Geophysics got started

With advancing years one is inclined to reflect on a career.  Few geophysicists have done so as effectively as Norm Paterson.  His new book tells the story of how the now-familar techniques of geophysics in mineral exploration got started in the 25 years following the end of the second World War.  It is a fascinating history of scientific and technical creativity.  Creative because no one knew for sure what would and would not work - in theory or practice - but the ultimate goal of finding hidden mineral deposits for a resource-hungry world was rather obivous.  Canada was centre-stage for the innovations that emerged, a situation that has survived another half century.

From his text I see several ingredients that contirbuted to this success story.  The geophysics laboratory (in reality a house) at the University of Toronto was the spawning ground where so many young students - and young war veterans - got started on their career path.  The government in Ottawa, through the Geological Survey of Canada, took a constructive role in supporting systematic national survey coverage that would never have happened if left to the commercial sector alone. The country as a whole had a 'can do' spirit that supported scientific and technical entrepreneurs who could invest their talents, time and money in being geophysically creative.  The number of businesses, large and small, that sprang up probably outnumbers the talented individuals who made them work - some of the time, at least.  So it is actually to a small number of individuals that we owe the biggest debt of gratitude for the foundations of mining geophysics - and not least to Norm himself.  He provides cameos of most of the pioneers, often complete with amusing anecdotes about their human foibles.  He is uniquely well qualified to do this in that he worked with many of them and knew them all.  His own geophysical career started as a summer student on a field camp in 1948.  By now he is almost a lone survivor. How important that he has reminded us all that we stand on the shoulders of such giants!

This essential reading is published by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum at C$ 39.00.

2019 July 1 (Canada Day)

How Mining Geophysics got started