Albee, Arden L. (earth scientist)

(1928- ) AmericanGeochemist, Metamorphic Petrologist

When Earth scientists write and publish a research paper, they hope it is successful. The definition of success varies by the individual, but if at least 200 people read the paper and 50 or more cite it in other research papers, then most would consider the paper to be a success. In 1968, Arden L. Albee and his student A. E. Bence published the paper, “Empirical Correction Factors for the Electron Microanalysis of Silicates and Oxides,” whose methods are still employed by geologists an average of 300 times per day. In the late 1960s, new analytical procedures allowed scientists to quantitatively analyze the chemistry of individual minerals. The electron microprobe bombards individual mineral grains with a focused stream of high-energy electrons. The individual atoms in the minerals give off X rays upon impact, which are then received by detectors. The data that the detectors supply is then converted into weight percent of an oxide of the element and then into an exact mineral formula. Chemical reactions can be precisely determined with these data in contrast to the purely qualitative chemical reactions that preceded this technique. Bence and Albee devised the correction factors needed to convert counts on an X-ray detector into oxides and minerals. Those corrections are programmed into likely every single electron microprobe in the world. Electron microprobes are used on a daily (and nightly) basis at most universities that operate them. That number includes essentially all of the large universities in the world. Albee supervised the electron microprobe facility at California Institute of Technology.

Arden Albee’s interest in the electron micro-probe is as a tool for his research on regional meta-morphism. While with the U.S. Geological Survey, Albee performed regional geologic mapping in Vermont, Colorado, and Maine. After leaving the USGS, he continued his work in northern Vermont, west Greenland and the Death Valley area of California. The goal of his research is to understand the conditions under which these metamor-phic rocks formed. To accomplish this goal, he analyzed the partitioning of elements among minerals as well as with theoretical thermodynamics.

Albee has a second research career studying extraterrestrial rocks. He was an investigator of the Apollo lunar samples for many years. As a result, he became chief scientist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1978 to 1984, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology. He was project scientist for the Mars Observer Mission that was launched in September, 1992, but with which contact was lost in August, 1993. He is still mission scientist for NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor Mission. Albee’s role in this work is not only to help plan the scientific objectives of the mission but also to design and implement instrumentation. His paper, “Development of a Miniature Scanning Electron Microscope for In-Flight Analysis of Comet Dust,” in 1983, is an example of such instrumental work. He directed the design of the equipment that analyzes the rocks in situ on Mars including an onboard scanning electron microscope. He is also involved in developing the remote sensing equipment that is used to map the surface of Mars from the spacecraft. Albee is a member of the U.S.-Russian Joint Working Group on Solar System Exploration that governs the scientific cooperation on joint missions including the International Space Station.

Arden L. Albee was born in Port Huron, Michigan, on May 28, 1928. He spent his childhood in Michigan. He received his undergraduate and graduate education at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor of arts, master of science, and doctor of philosophy degrees in geology in 1950, 1951, and 1957, respectively. Albee worked for the U.S. Geological Survey as a field ge-ologistpetrologist during his graduate studies and until he joined the faculty at California Institute of Technology, where he remains today. He served as the dean of Graduate Studies from 1984 to 2000. Albee is married, has eight children and 13 grandchildren, and lives in Altadena, California.

Albee has been very active professionally, producing numerous papers in international journals, professional volumes, and governmental reports. He is an author of some of the most important papers in the field of metamorphic petrology, analytical techniques, and space exploration. He has also been of great service to the profession. He served on numerous advisory committees and project review boards for NASA. He also served as chair for a number of working groups on Martian missions. He is the recipient of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement for this service to space exploration. Albee has been an officer and/or editor for a number of professional societies and organizations, including the Geological Society of America, Mineralogical Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union. He has served as associate editor for the Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences since 1979.

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