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Goldschmidt, Victor Moritz

crystal geochemistry norway structure

[goltshmit] (1888–1947) Swiss–Norwegian chemist: pioneer of geochemistry and crystal chemistry.

Born in Zürich, Goldschmidt graduated from the University of Christiania (now Oslo) in 1911, becoming director of the Mineralogical Institute there when he was 26. He had already had great success in applying physical chemistry to mineralogy. In 1929 he moved to Göttingen, but returned to Norway in 1935 when the Nazis came to power. As a Jew he was fortunate that, although imprisoned when Germany occupied Norway in 1940, he was temporarily released; he escaped to Sweden in a haycart and moved to England in 1943.

Goldschmidt is regarded as the founder of modern geochemistry. Using X-ray techniques he established the crystal structures of over 200 compounds and 75 elements and made the first tables of ionic radii. In 1929, on the basis of these results, he postulated a fundamental law relating chemical composition to crystal structure: that the structure of a crystal is determined by the ratio of the numbers of ions, the ratio of their sizes and their polarization properties; this is often known as Goldschmidt’s Law. It enabled Goldschmidt to predict in which minerals various elements could or could not be found. He also showed that the Earth’s crust is made up largely of oxy-anions (90% by volume) with silicon and the common metals filling the remaining space.

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