Harry Elderfield

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Harry Elderfield

Henry Elderfield

(1943-04-25)25 April 1943[1]
Died19 April 2016(2016-04-19) (aged 72)[2]
Alma mater
Scientific career
Doctoral students

Professor Henry "Harry" Elderfield FRS[6] (25 April 1943 – 19 April 2016), was Professor of Ocean Chemistry and Palaeochemistry at the Godwin Laboratory in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge.[7][8] He made his name in ocean chemistry and palaeochemistry, using trace metals and isotopes in biogenic carbonate as palaeochemical tracers, and studying the chemistry of modern and ancient oceans - especially those of the glacial epoch and the Cenozoic.[2][9][10][11]


Elderfield was educated at Eston Grammar School.[1] He attended the University of Liverpool obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (oceanography) in 1965. He worked as a research fellow in the Geology Department, Imperial College London between 1968 and 1969 whilst completing his PhD at the University of Liverpool in 1970.[citation needed]

Career and research[edit]

He was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds in 1969, a position he held until 1982. From 1982 until 1989 he held the post of assistant director in research in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. During this time he obtained a Master of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge in 1985, followed by a Doctor of Science degree in 1989. The same year, he was made a reader in geochemistry at Cambridge, before being appointed to the chair of Professor of Ocean Geochemistry and Paleochemistry (Cambridge) in 1999.

Early career[edit]

His early career was focused on the behaviour of trace metals in oceans and their sediments, and on fluid flow through the oceanic crust and sediments under the influence of off-axis hydrothermal circulation. He became one of the first low-temperature geochemists to appreciate how radiogenic isotopes might be used to solve the problems of marine geochemistry, developing the seawater strontium isotope curve for the Cenozoic.[12]

He also worked on iodine speciation in seawater and porewaters,[13] the separation of cerium from other rare earth elements in a classic example of redox behaviour;[14] he has developed a precise mass spectrometric analysis method – and made the first-ever measurements of oceanic profiles for – 10 rare earth elements. The rare earths are now widely used as tracers in sedimentary geochemistry and palaeoceanography.[15]

Later research[edit]

Elderfield's later research focused on ocean chemistry and paleochemistry, and his results have had a far-reaching impact on the academic geochemistry discipline. He contributed significantly to marine chemistry, most notably the fate of metals in hydrothermal processes, the formation of manganese nodules,<[16] and the biogeochemical cycles of elements including iodine and strontium.

His latter interests included defining chemical proxies from biogenic carbonates and using them to understand the ancient ocean. He pioneered the development of foraminiferal magnesium thermometry, which has become accepted for the estimation of past ocean temperatures.[15][17]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Elderfield, H., Holland, D. & Turekian, K.K. (2003) Treatise on geochemistry. Elsevier Science, 646p[ISBN missing]
  • Carbonate Mysteries[18]
  • The rare-earth elements in rivers, estuaries, and coastal seas and their significance to the composition of ocean waters[19]
  • Application of the Cerium anomaly as a palaeoredox indicator: the ground rules[14]
  • Sr isotope composition of sea water over the past 75 Myr[12]
  • Interstitial water iodine enrichments in sediments from the eastern Pacific[13]
  • The rare-earth elements in sea-water[12]
  • Rare-earth element geochemistry of oceanic ferromanganese nodules and associated sediments[16]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anon (2016). "Elderfield, Prof. Henry". Who's Who. ukwhoswho.com (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription or UK public library membership required) (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c Rickaby, Rosalind E. M. (2016). "Harry Elderfield (1943–2016)". Nature. 533 (7603): 322. Bibcode:2016Natur.533..322R. doi:10.1038/533322a. PMID 27193672.
  3. ^ [https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b6m5y3 Rachel Mills exploring the sea floor
  4. ^ Mills, Rachel Ann (1992). A geochemical and isotopic study of hydrothermal sediments from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 26 deg N. jisc.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.260428.
  5. ^ Rickaby, Rosalind Emily Mayors (1999). Planktonic foraminiferal Cd/Ca : a new perspective on Southern Ocean palaeoproductivity. jisc.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 894602139. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.624523.
  6. ^ a b Anon (1996). "Professor Henry Elderfield FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the royalsociety.org website where:

    “All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.” --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

  7. ^ "Professor Harry Elderfield: Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems". Cambridge: cam.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015.
  8. ^ Anand, Pallavi; Elderfield, Henry; Conte, Maureen H. (2003). "Calibration of Mg/Ca thermometry in planktonic foraminifera from a sediment trap time series" (PDF). Paleoceanography. 18 (2): n/a. Bibcode:2003PalOc..18.1050A. doi:10.1029/2002PA000846.
  9. ^ Personal web page at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge Archived 6 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ CEI Profile page Archived 25 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Fellow of St Catharine's College Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ a b c Palmer, M. R.; Elderfield, H. (1985). "Sr isotope composition of sea water over the past 75 Myr". Nature. 314 (6011): 526–528. Bibcode:1985Natur.314..526P. doi:10.1038/314526a0. S2CID 4348254.
  13. ^ a b Wakefield, S. J.; Elderfield, H. (1985). "Interstitial water iodine enrichments in sediments from the eastern Pacific". Journal of Marine Research. 43 (4): 951–961. doi:10.1357/002224085788453912.
  14. ^ a b German, Christopher R.; Elderfield, Henry (1990). "Application of the Ce anomaly as a paleoredox indicator: The ground rules". Paleoceanography. 5 (5): 823–833. Bibcode:1990PalOc...5..823G. doi:10.1029/PA005i005p00823.
  15. ^ a b The Geological Society Lyell Medal Award Archived 23 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ a b Elderfield, H; Hawkesworth, C.J; Greaves, M.J; Calvert, S.E (1981). "Rare earth element geochemistry of oceanic ferromanganese nodules and associated sediments". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 45 (4): 513–528. Bibcode:1981GeCoA..45..513E. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(81)90184-8.
  17. ^ European Association of Geochemistry[dead link]
  18. ^ Elderfield, H. (2002). "CLIMATE CHANGE: Carbonate Mysteries". Science. 296 (5573): 1618–1621. doi:10.1126/science.1072079. PMID 12040166. S2CID 12883718.
  19. ^ Elderfield, H.; Upstill-Goddard, R.; Sholkovitz, E.R. (1990). "The rare earth elements in rivers, estuaries, and coastal seas and their significance to the composition of ocean waters". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 54 (4): 971–991. Bibcode:1990GeCoA..54..971E. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(90)90432-K.