Gerry Govett (19xx-2019)

Gerry Govett (19xx-2019)


The AAG was sad to hear of the death of one of our best known members, Gerry Govett, in January, 2019. Gerry was a founding member of the Association of Applied Geochemists (formerly the Association of Exploration Geochemists), President of the Association from 1976 to 1977, and recipient of the AAG Gold Medal in 2009. Gerry was a major contributor to the development of the Association, including the transition to the new name and broadening of its scope.

Gerry was born in Sully in Wales. He was baptised Gerald James Spurgeon Govett. His third name acknowledged his mother’s high regard for that illustrious 19th Century evangelist, and which would subsequently be reflected in Gerry’s equally keen commitment to research and teaching.

Gerry completed his first degree the University of Wales followed by a PhD at Imperial College London working on geochemical exploration for copper in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). After seven years with the Research Council of Alberta following completion of his PhD, Gerry headed off to academia where he would spend the next 30 years, commencing with the University of the Philippines (1965) and continuing onto the University of New Brunswick (1966-1976) and finally the University of New South Wales (1977-96). Shortly after arriving at UNSW, Gerry was appointed Head of the School of Applied Geology, attracting a number of graduate students into exploration geochemical research. He was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science in 1983 and continued as a highly respected academic leader in that role until that faculty was disestablished as all the sciences at UNSW commenced condensation into a single Science Faculty. He would meet his future wife, Idelies, at UNSW.

During his academic career, Gerry was also involved as a consultant geochemist for the United Nations Development Programme, a member of the Canadian Geoscience Council, a visitor to the Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration (CRC LEME), a number of national or international scientific panels and scientific projects, and President of the Australian Geoscience Council (1983-84).  He was also involved in the corporate sector, including a period as Chair of Delta Gold Ltd. He was regularly called upon for advice by various geological surveys around the world, and was on the editorial boards of a number of journals.

Gerry was a great colleague, mentor and very supportive supervisor to many other geologists and geochemists. His list of co-authors and students is a veritable Who’s Who of the exploration geochemical world from the 1960s to the 1990s. A long-term and fiercely loyal support staff was testament to his integrity and personal qualities. His perspective on a wide range of both educational and mining industry issues was often sought and readily given. His dry sense of humour and calm manner was much appreciated by colleagues and students.

He was a meticulous scientist and a very engaging writer, though debates with students on the nuances of punctuation and grammar sometimes rivalled some scientific arguments. He commenced a number of lithogeochemical studies in eastern Australia and co-authored one of the earliest papers on electro-geochemical dispersion through cover.

Though his contribution in many aspects of exploration geochemistry and other aspects of geology is evident in his string of highly cited papers, his most enduring legacy is probably the landmark Handbook of Exploration Geochemistry, whose seven volumes Gerry edited and, in the case of Volume 3 on lithogeochemistry, contributed much of the content. Gerry was on the board of CRC LEME as well as exploration companies.

Gerry moved in later years to the NSW southern highlands where he continued to pursue some economic geology interests as well as turning his hand to olive growing, and continued to attend IAGS. Gerry will be sorely missed by the exploration geochemical community and we extend our condolences to Idelies and others of Gerry’s family.


David Cohen