Günter W. Lugmair receives the highest award from the Geochemical Society

Viktor Moritz Goldschmidt medal to emeritus professor

Mars Rover Opportunity © NASA / GSFC / NSSDC
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For its groundbreaking discoveries in the field of geochemistry and cosmochemistry, the international Geochemical Society now honors the emeritus director of the Mainz Max Planck Institute for Chemistry with the Viktor Moritz Goldschmidt Medal. The recent honoring of his outstanding achievements will be presented at the international Goldschmidt conference in Cologne at the end of August.

Born in 1940 in Wels, Austria, Lugmair earned his doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna. After a first employment at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, he worked successfully for 30 years at the University of California in San Diego. In 1996 he returned to Germany and became Director of the Department of Cosmochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Since his retirement in 2005, he re-directs his research group in San Diego.

How old is the solar system? What do isotopes tell us about the beginnings of the earth? How can you perform high-precision rock analyzes on Mars? Lugmair provided answers to these and many other questions in the course of his scientific answers or helped to answer them. Already in 1974 he developed a mass spectroscopic method to determine the age of lunar and meteorite samples. Today this is the standard method for dating terrestrial rocks, as it is very reliable. His samarium neodymium method has profoundly influenced the path of isotope geochemistry.

Radioactive watches reveal the age of the solar system

Later, he was able to detect a certain variant of the element samarium, the so-called samarium-146 in meteorites and bring so a little more light in the early history of our solar system. Using this isotope, scientists today answer questions about the first 500 million years of Earth's history.

Günter W. Lugmair © Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

Günter Lugmair achieved unprecedented precision in determining the isotopic composition of various chemical elements in stars. This was the prerequisite for finding out which processes occur in the formation of these elements. Also the age of the solar system could be limited Lugmair with the help of its radioactive "clocks" on the basis of the ratios of uranium lead and manganese53 chromium-53 strongly it lies between 4568 to 4571 million years. display

"Spur nose" for Mars

A special focus of his department Cosmochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry is planetary research, in particular Mars research. Since January 2004, two Alpha X-ray spectrometers (APXS), developed in Lugmair's department, are onboard the two NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity . The affectionately called "nose snouts" spectrometers send fascinating data on the chemical composition of the Martian rocks including evidence for the water-rich past of our now almost similar neighbors.

Numerous publications in prestigious magazines, prizes, awards and honors as well as membership of scientific societies and bodies testify to the international recognition of his research achievements. To the long list of his honors comes now with the Viktor Moritz Goldschmidt medal another high and coveted award.

(Max Planck Institute for Chemistry / Kirsten Achenbach, MARUM_DFG-Forschungszentrum Ozeanr nder, 13.08.2007 - DLO)