Gerry Govett - Honorary Member

Professor Gerry Govett was awarded Honorary Membership of the Association of Applied (then Exploration) Geochemists at the 21st International Geochemical Exploration Symposium in Dublin in August 2003.  The Palladian-style dining hall of Trinity College, Dublin, completed in 1761, formed the ideal setting for bestowing this Award during the IGES Gala Dinner.  It was particularly fortunate that both Gerry and his wife, Idelies, could be present at the ceremony.

The citation was read by David Garnett, Chair of the Honorary Membership Committee and a Past President of the Association.

Gerry Govett, the AEG's latest Honorary Member —still on the lookout for innovative techniques in exploration geochemistry.

Honorary Membership is given only to those who have made a distinguished contribution to exploration geochemistry that warrants exceptional recognition.  It may be awarded for scientific excellence; for an exceptional contribution to dissemination of knowledge of that science; or for a major contribution towards the growth and well-being of exploration geochemists through such bodies as the AEG. In the case of Gerry Govett, it can be argued that he qualifies on all three counts.

He was a founding member of the AEG, serving on Council from 1974 to 1978, including a term as President in 1976-1977. He organized the first regional AEG meeting, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and also served on the original committee that formulated the guidelines for awarding AEG Honorary Membership, so at least he knows what the requirements are for the award.  In recent years he has been particularly active in the debate over the changing role of the Association. His contribution to geoscience has not stopped with the AEG. He was Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Geology, University of New Brunswick (1973-1977) and was also a member of the Canadian Geoscience Council (1975-1977); the Canadian Committee for the Correlation of Caledonian Strata-bound Sulphides Project (1975-1977); the International Nickel Company of Canada Graduate Research Fellowship Committee (1969-1973) and the Australian National Committee for the International Geological Correlation Projects (1978-1988). As if this wasn’t enough, he was also a Councillor for the Australian Mineral Foundation (1983); and served as Vice-President (1981-1983) and President (1983-1984) of the Australian Geoscience Council. He continues to act as a mentor to  present day exploration research scientists in his role as Visitor to the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration(CRC LEME). His academic progress has been no less impressive. After graduating from the University of Wales in 1955 with First Class Honours in Geology, he took just three years to gain both a DIC and a PhD through the University of London’s Royal School of Mines, Imperial College of Science and Technology. His PhD was on geochemical prospecting for copper in Northern Rhodesia and the experience of this had clearly infected him with the travel bug because his next move was to the Research Council of Alberta, where he spent seven years as an Associate Research Officer., before the bug struck again and he moved to the University of the Philippines as Technical Expert and Visiting Professor.

A year later he was heading back to Canada, to the University of New Brunswick, first as a Visiting Professor in Geochemistry (1966-1967) and then – after a year working as a consultant geochemist in Cyprus, Jordan and Ethiopia for the United Nations Development Programme — as Associate Professor (1968-1970), followed by Full Professor (1970-1977). While the University of New Brunswick held his attention for most of that time, the travel bug was still biting with the result that he took a year’s leave-of-absence (1971) to consult on mineral exploration in Greece and to assist in the organisation of State geological bodies. He then made his last major move, to the University of New South Wales, Australia, where he occupied the Chair of Geology (1977-1996), first as Head of the School of Applied Geology (1979-1985) before broadening his responsibilities to become Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science (1984-1996). In this last position he was responsible for some 230 academic and general staff.

The career outlined above would have been more than enough for most people but Gerry Govett is far from being a simple died-in-the-wool academic. He has had extensive exploration experience (planning and implementation) in 15 countries (Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Greece, Guyana, Jordan, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe). He has consulted to the United Nations; OECD and both large international and smaller national mining and he has been Geochemical Adviser and Consultant to the Geological Surveys of Greece (1975, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989) and Finland (1987, 1989). In addition he was a Director of Delta Gold Ltd from the time it listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1983 until it merged with Goldfields Limited in 2001 to form AurionGold. During that period he was Chairman of the Board during the company reorganization in 1994. He remained a member of the Board after the merger until the company was taken over by Placer Dome in 2002. And just to round out his experience he has also been a forensic consultant to the Drug and Murder Squads of New South Wales Police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In a career that spans well over forty years, Gerry has achieved successful transitions both from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere and from academia to business, and in the process has made seminal contributions across the entire field of exploration geochemistry. Whether it was sampling protocols or data analysis, he had something constructive and original to say about it. He was an early champion of electrochemical models of element dispersion through transported cover, and while this was more than thirty years ago it is as relevant today as it was then. This, and other, work is documented in more than ninety scientific papers. He has not only generated knowledge of exploration geochemistry, he has also disseminated it, both his own and the work of others. He has inspired generations of students both in Canada and Australia with his energy, his enthusiasm and the scientific rigour of his ideas, and has managed to translate his academic skill into tangible exploration successes. He served on the editorial boards of Resources Policy from 1974-1991 and the Journal of Geochemical Exploration (1976-1998) and Exploration and Mining Geology (1991-1996). It is clear that exploration geochemistry owes much to Gerry Govett, but it is probably reasonable to argue that his most enduring contribution to has been through his editorship of the Handbook of Exploration Geochemistry. He not only conceived the idea for such a series, in 1974, but he even wrote one of the volumes that we have today – on rock geochemistry. Apart from the work he has contributed himself, he has also had the time and energy to persuade (coerce?) many of the world’s leading geochemists to compile, edit and/or write the seven volumes produced so far. This has provided an invaluable synthesis of knowledge on exploration geochemistry which would otherwise have been out of reach of all but the most library-bound of exploration geochemists.

To conclude on a brief and slightly lighter footnote note, he can also claim credit for coining the term ‘rabbits ears anomaly’.



Following his award of Honorary Membership of the AAG, Gerry has maintained involvement in exploration geochemistry.  He continued his mentoring role at CRC LEME, providing valuable input to the direction of the scientific programs of the Centre until it closed in 2008.  He was further honoured by the AAG at the Fredericton Symposium in August 2009, when he was awarded the Association’s Gold Medal for outstanding scientific achievement in exploration geochemistry.  Gerry has also continued to publish, including reminiscences of his experiences as a PhD student in East Africa during the pioneering days of exploration geochemistry, in a volume honouring his supervisor, Professor John S. Webb (GEEA 10 (3) 2010).  However, his main focus has been on his rural property in the highlands of New South Wales, some of the triumphs, trials and tribulations of which are described in the Gold Medal citation (see ).