Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to accept the Hawley Medal for our paper describing the study of the dehydration and hydration of sulfate minerals by X-ray diffraction. I feel especially honored to be recognized from among the authors of many high-quality papers that were published in The Canadian Mineralogist in 2005.
Al and I performed the in situ diffraction experiments described in the paper in the Hawley Laboratories of Bruce Wing, Miller Hall at Queen's University. Ed Hawley was a professor at Queen's University and Department Head of Mineralogy from 1930 to 1950 and Department Head of Geological Sciences from 1950 to 1962. He had a reputation as a stern, serious professor. Behind his back, the students referred to him as 'number eleven', indicating where they thought he belonged on the Mohs scale of hardness. Ed studied the geology of the mines in the Sudbury basin and the Geology department at Queen's has many suites of specimens from long-abandoned or exhausted mines that are used from time to time by scientists from academia and industry. As I sat at Len Berry's desk writing this acknowledgement, I wondered what Ed and Len would have thought of toda's research in the Hawley Labs. Ed and Len both spent their time studying sulfides and sulfosalts from mines around the world. The waste from all those mines has, in most cases, been left abandoned in tailings piles and ponds. In our experiments, we devised a method to study the sulfates that form in mine waste and to observe the reactions that occur with changes in temperature and humidity. These reactions can take place very quickly, and to study them systematically requires careful control of the environmental variables while measuring the diffraction spectra.
In principle, the design of a chamber that fits on a diffractometer is straightforward. In practice, however, it is quite challenging. It took us countless modifications to construct a device that gave stable temperatures and humidity over a useful range of conditions, all the while giving good X-ray-diffraction spectra. The local hardware store supplied much of the material to construct the apparatus, and the zero-background plate is rotated by a motor scavenged from a LEGOTM Mindstorms robotic kit. Each evening, Al and I would be sure the computer control systems, the various pumps, gas and water lines, heaters and diffractometer collections routines were ready to go. For a while, almost every morning we arrived to find that some component had failed overnight. The joke became 'If we were NASA engineers, we would have been fired by now'. Perseverance paid off, and we finally developed a system that continues to give us important results. As I speak, NASA has two rovers traveling across the surface of Mars sending back all sorts of mineralogical data. NASA should be applauded for designing and operating such a complex successful mission. I can only imagine the skills that must be needed to be construct a device that functions so brilliantly on the surface of another planet. Thank you again for recognizing our attempts to 'boldly go where no mineralogist has gone before'.
Ronald C. Peterson
It is with humility and a great deal of surprise that I accept this award with Ron. It certainly is an unexpected and much-appreciated honor. My role was as software designer, plumber, LEGO motor mechanic, trouble shooter and sounding board. I'm pleased that I was able to contribute and appreciative that Ron saw fit to name me as coauthor.
Interest in sulfate minerals that develop in the mine-waste environment has evolved from their collection as mineralogical exotica to their study from an environmental and mine remediation point of view. It's very gratifying to see this paper recognized for the innovative analytical techniques that were developed and their application to environmental mineralogy.
In his congratulatory letter, Dan Kontak noted that the nominating panel was impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the paper. I have no doubt that Ron will be engaged in further succinct and elegant research. The Hawley Medal is fitting and deserved encouragement for someone who definitely thinks 'outside the box'.
Thanks again to the MAC Awards Committee for this recognition, and to the organizing committee for the wonderful lunch.
Alan H. Grant