ALFRED A. LEVINSON (1927-2005)


Alfred A Levinson. 1927 - 2005 passed away on Monday, December 12, 2005, at the age of 78, after a long private battle with lung cancer. Al was best known in exploration geochemical circles for his text book “Introduction to Exploration Geochemistry” first published in 1974, and republished with an extensive supplement in1980, and as co-author of “Practical Problems of Exploration Geochemistry” published in 1987. More recently, he turned his considerable intellectual talents to the challenges of diamond exploration, publishing a number of papers and contributing a chapter entitled “Diamond Sources and Their Discovery” to the 1997 book "The Nature of Diamonds".

Al Levinson was born on Statten Island, New York, and first became interested in geology while at high school, developing a fascination for volcanoes, earthquakes and the mysteries of geological time. Al served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and subsequently obtained his doctorate degree in mineralogy from the University of Michigan in 1952. His distinguished career as a geochemist/geologist/mineralogist included positions as assistant professor at Ohio State University, and research mineralogist with Dow Chemical and Gulf Research, before joining the University of Calgary in 1967 as Professor of Geology. During his tenure at Calgary, he not only taught thousands of students, but he also served on the editorial boards of several major geological journals (notably as executive editor of Geochemica et Cosmochemica Acta). In addition, he edited the first scientific volumes on the rocks recovered during the 1969 Apollo 11 voyage to the moon, and authored a number of books. Shortly before his retirement from the University of Calgary in 1994, Al developed an interest in gemology that he pursued as author, as editor of Gems and Gemology, and as a lecturer, until his death. In 2001, a new mineral species, levinsonite, a rare-earth mineral, was named in his honor in recognition for developing the “Levinson modifier” for the nomenclature of rare-earth minerals.

Al Levinson had a long and exceptionally productive career, making substantial and lasting contributions to geology, mineralogy, gemology, and exploration geochemistry. Not least, he inspired a large number of students and, through his books, papers and numerous presentations, educated and encouraged several generations of academic and industry professionals to reach for excellence in the practice of geoscience.

Peter Bradshaw
July 2006