Arthur Holmes

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Arthur Holmes (January 14 1890September 20 1965) was a British geologist.

He performed the first uranium-lead radiometric dating specifically designed to measure the age of a rock during his undergraduate studies. His result was 370 Ma for a Devonian rock from Norway. He graduated in 1910, and the result was published 1911, after he already travelled to Mozambique for six months to prospect for minerals. He contracted blackwater fever and malaria so severe that an obituary was telegraphed back to Britain. However, he immediately left for home and recovered, and managed to avoid military service because of this during the first World War.

He joined the staff at Imperial College, where he pursued doctoral studies, obtaining a PhD in 1917.

He then took a job with an oil company in Burma, but the company went bankrupt and he had to return to England penniless in 1924. To make matters worse, his son had died of dysentery in Burma. He then became Professor of geology at Durham University, but moved on to University of Edinburgh later in his career (1943), retiring in 1956.

He greatly furthered the newly created discipline of geochronology and published the world renowned book The Age of the Earth in 1913 in which he estimated the Earth's age to be 1600 Ma.

He championed the theory of plate tectonics from its start, even when he was in a small minority. His second famous book Principles of Physical Geology was published in 1944, which concludes with a chapter about plate tectonics. His later measurements of the age of the Earth (4,500 +/- 100 Ma) were based on measurements of the relative abundance of uranium isotopes by Alfred O. C. Nier.

He won the Wollaston Medal in 1956. The Arthur Holmes Medal of the European Geosciences Union is named after him.

A crater on Mars was named in his honor.

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