Professor Peter Deines (1936-2009)

Jeff Harris*, Thomas Stachel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Professor Peter Deines died on February 2nd, 2009 in the Mount Nittany Medical Centre, State College, Pennsylvania, from cancer. Peter was born in Hannoversch Münden, northern Germany. Following undergraduate studies at Friedrich Wilhelms University in Bonn, in 1959, he left for America, completing first his M.Sc. and then a Ph.D. in Geochemistry and Mineralogy at Pennsylvania State University by 1967. Even at this early stage in his career, his potential was recognised and he was offered a position in the then Department of Geosciences at State College — a Department which he never left. His decision to stay may have had something to do with Melissa McCreary, who he first met in 1970 and married in1973.

Whatever the reason, Peter settled at State College and made a profound contribution, for just short of 40 years, to his University. Being a dedicated teacher, Peter wrote two books for web distribution, “Solved Problems in Geochemistry” and “Stable Isotope Geochemistry Course Notes”. For his exceptional teaching in Geochemistry he was awarded the College's Wilson Award. Peter was an elected member of the University Senate for 24 years, served on over 60 committees, and was an advisor to the University President. After moving to Emeritus status in 2004, Peter continued to serve his University as Ombudsman (since 2006) and Associate Head, Graduate Programs.

In parallel with this work and up to the latter part of 2008, Peter was also actively pursuing his research into stable isotope geochemistry, particularly of the mantle, a subject for which he was justifiably recognised worldwide. His contributions in this field were immense. From an initial inquiry in 1975 about collaboration with the older of the authors writing this text, was born a research partnership which endured for 35 years. Peter's analytical ability and geochemical knowledge became an integral part of a broader programme to understand upper mantle processes through the study of diamonds and their mineral inclusions. This life-long collaboration provided carbon isotope information on diamonds of different varieties, sizes, shapes and colours, from all the operating mines in southern Africa and some mines in West and East Africa. The work presented in this issue of Lithos, on the newly opened Damtshaa mine in Botswana, was the final locality to be considered in this programme, begun all those years ago. Peter's interests also extended to carbon and oxygen isotopes in mantle xenoliths, other mantle minerals, such as graphite, carbonate and moissanite, and mantle fluids, such as CO2 and CH4.

Peter's ideas were not always immediately accepted by his scientific colleagues and such differences of opinion at Conferences and elsewhere, lead to meaningful and lively discussion. His long held view was that it was not necessary to invoke subducted organic matter to account for the often wide variation noted in the carbon isotope values, particularly of eclogitic diamonds. Instead, he believed that the often distinct isotope reservoirs, identified from the diamonds, were solely a product of mantle heterogeneity.

Peter was treasurer of the Geochemical Society of America from 1981 to 1988, and for the responsible financial structures he created, was awarded an Honorary Life Membership.

To have known Peter was a real privilege. This modest, gentle and most pleasant man, utterly dedicated to his work, was an exceptional geochemist and will be sorely missed.

Peter is survived by Melissa, his wife for 36 years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-775
Number of pages1
Issue numberSupplement 2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


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