Brian Harold Mason

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Brian Harold Mason
Born (1917-04-18)18 April 1917
Port Chalmers, Dunedin, New Zealand
Died 3 December 2009(2009-12-03) (aged 92)
Washington, D.C., USA
Fields Geochemistry, mineralogy, meteoritics
Institutions Indiana University, Smithsonian Institution
Alma mater University of Stockholm
Thesis Mineralogical aspects of the system FeO - Fe2O3 - MnO - Mn2O3 (1943)
Doctoral advisor Victor Moritz Goldschmidt
Known for Meteorite classification
Notable awards Leonard Medal
Roebling Medal (1993)

Brian Harold Mason (18 April 1917 – 3 December 2009) was a New Zealand geochemist and mineralogist who was one of the pioneers in the study of meteorites.[1]

Mason played a leading part in understanding the nature of the solar system through his studies of meteorites and lunar rocks. He also examined and classified thousands of meteorites collected from Antarctica.[2][3]


Mason was born in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, in 1917 and was brought up in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was educated at Christchurch Boys' High School and studied geology and chemistry at Canterbury University College, graduating MSc with first-class honours in 1939.[4] In 1943, he completed a PhD in geochemistry at the University of Stockholm under Victor Goldschmidt.

Mason returned to Christchurch where he was appointed lecture of geology at Canterbury University College. He taught there for two years. In 1947, he was appointed professor of mineralogy at Indiana University where he was based for rest of his life. He was a curator of mineralogy at both the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Two minerals have been named after Mason. Brianite is a phosphate mineral and stenhuggarite (from the Swedish ‘stenhuggar’ – ‘mason’) is a rare iron-antimony mineral. Asteroid 12926 Brianmason is also named in his honor.[5]

Mason won the Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society in 1972 and the Roebling Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America in 1993. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1984.[6]

Mason died in Washington, D.C., on 3 December 2009[7] from renal failure. He was survived by his stepson, Frank W. Turner, who lived with Mason in Chevy Chase, MD.

Mason's third wife, Margarita C. Babb, and mother of Frank Turner, died on 3 February 2009 due to complications from multiple myeloma. They were married for 15 years.

Mason was married two other times, first to Anne Marie Linn and then to Virginia Powell; both marriages ended in divorce. He had a son, George, with his second wife. George died in a mountain climbing accident in 1981 at the age of 20.

Selected works[edit]

  • The literature of geology, American Museum of Natural History, 1953
  • Meteorites, Wiley, 1962
  • The lunar rocks, Authors Brian Harold Mason, William G. Melson, Wiley-Interscience, 1970, ISBN 978-0-471-57530-6
  • Handbook of elemental abundances in meteorites, Editor Brian Harold Mason, Gordon and Breach, 1971
  • Principles of Geochemistry Editor Carleton B. Moore, Wiley, 1982, ISBN 978-0-471-57522-1
  • Victor Moritz Goldschmidt: father of modern geochemistry, Geochemical Society, 1992, ISBN 978-0-941809-03-0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Meteorites - Brian Mason, geochemist and meteorite scientist - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
  2. ^ "Brian Mason - a brief profile" Archived 28 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Brian Mason Scientific & Technical Trust
  3. ^ "Brian H. Mason, 92: Smithsonian expert on rocks from moon", Washington Post, Patricia Sullivan, 9 December 2009
  4. ^ "NZ university graduates 1870–1961: Ma". Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "12926 Brianmason", JPL Small-Body Database Browser
  6. ^ "List of Honorary Fellows: M–O". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Brian Mason". Royal Society of New Zealand. 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2014.