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Laszlo (Les) Horvath and Elsa Pfenninger-Horvath

Laszlo and Elsa HorvathLes studied metallurgy in Hungary and metallurgy and management in Canada. He was born in Hungary in 1937, and came to Canada at age 20 at a time of great upheaval in his country.

Elsa was born in Switzerland, arrived in Canada in 1968, and worked for many years as a research technician in the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University.

The Horváths are passionate amateur mineralogists who have had a lasting impact on the development of the mineralogical sciences in Canada and abroad. Les and Elsa have been heavily involved in the mineralogy of the Monteregian alkaline igneous complexes for over thirty years. At Mont Saint-Hilaire, for example, they were the first to find more than 60 of the 365 species known from the locality, including five new mineral species discovered by themselves and two others in cooperation with other colleagues.

The dedication of the species horváthite-(Y), discovered in the Poudrette pegmatite dike, recognizes their long-term involvement and impact. Together, the Horváths have systematically documented the mineralogy and paragenetic associations of Mont Saint-Hilaire, the Francon quarry in Montreal, and the Varennes quarry in Saint-Amable, as well as many other Quebec localities. All this knowledge has been chronicled in major publications in The Mineralogical Record. Spinoff articles have appeared in Lapis, Rivista Mineralogica Italiana, and Mineralien Welt.

The Horváths have generously made available important samples from their collection to researchers worldwide. What sets them apart is the thorough documentation that comes with the samples, including complete information on paragenesis, location within an outcrop, and position with respect to contacts. Their vast mineralogical knowledge is not the product of advanced degrees in the Earth sciences at well-established universities.

Both are now retired, which allows them to focus on their passion— mineralogy, especially that of alkaline complexes. Les is responsible for two public-service-type items hosted on the MAC website under Mineralogical Resources. The most important is a catalog, annually updated, of mineral species occurring in Canada, each entry complete with a reference.

Les is the author of Mineral Species First Discovered in Canada, Special Publication 6, published in 2003. Les insisted on making the book a useful original contribution in many ways:

  1. It covers the development of the mineralogical sciences in Canada right from the beginning.
  2. He (and Elsa) visited as many type localities as possible to improve the first-reported coordinates with their GPS device.
  3. He acquired catalog numbers of all holotype and cotype specimens in the major museums of the world, so that future generations would not waste time tracking down material for further study.
  4. He acquired photos and biographical details about all people honored by having a mineral species named after them.

Elsa and Les Horváth have given a great boost to mineralogy in Canada, and indeed worldwide. Both are still very active, as they extend their activities to the ophiolite belt of southern Quebec, in particular in the Asbestos and Thetford Mines area. We can look forward to more valuable contributions from the Horváths to the advancement of mineralogy on the national and international scenes.

Robert F. Martin