Digital Issue 7

Obituary: Professor Richard Stanton AO – 1926-2020

  • By Proferssor Ross Large AO and David Royle FAusIMM(CP)

Professor Richard (Dick) Stanton was born in 1926 Sydney and died in Canberra, Australia on 25 August 2020.

Richard Stanton.

He studied geology and mathematics at the New England University College of the University of Sydney at Armidale, which later became the University of New England (UNE).

From a very early age Dick Stanton was interested in the natural world, and amongst other things he was a keen collector of minerals. When he entered first year geology at UNE it was his fourth subject choice in the hope of doing something on minerals and crystals. As it turned out, he proceeded on to a double major in geology and mathematics. During his undergraduate years he learnt to appreciate the elegance of science; and in his future career Dick Stanton achieved some beautiful solutions about how mineral deposits form in the Earth’s crust.

Dick Stanton graduated at the end of WWII, when there was a surge in mineral exploration activity, and the challenge of an exciting career. He joined Broken Hill South starting in Broken Hill and then moved to Far North Queensland, to work up along the spine of Cape York Peninsula, followed by a mapping stint at an old copper mine at Burraga, about 50 miles south of Bathurst, NSW. This was the start of Stanton’s most important contribution to economic geology: the theory that massive sulphide deposits of zinc, lead and copper form on the seafloor associated with volcanism in regional volcanic island arc settings.

Stanton quickly realised that on a larger scale than Burraga, the old mines and workings south of Bathurst occurred in a distinct pattern related to the geological features of the area, a particular association of volcanic rocks, shales and coralline reef limestones. Subsequently this became the topic of his PhD started at the University of Sydney in 1950 and completed in early 1954.

In 1956 Stanton won a National Research Council of Canada post doctorate fellowship at Queen’s University, in Ontario researching the copper and zinc massive sulphides in New Brunswick. This subsequently led to three publications in the CIMM in 1959 and 60, which had a major impact on massive sulphide mineral exploration. The last of these, ‘General features of the conformable pyritic orebodies’, laid out the model for massive sulphide mineralisation and the key parameters for their exploration.

Dick Stanton returned to Australia to accept a post in the University of New England, where he rose to become the pre-eminent academic economic geologist in Australia and spent 29 years contributing very significant research in a number of aspects of ore deposit genesis.

Probably his best recognised achievement in this period was his 1972 book Ore Petrology. This was the first publication to consider ore deposits as a natural part of geological evolution and to recognise that classes of deposits were controlled by their geological environment. The book was an immediate success and over 18 000 copies were sold worldwide. It was the basic text on ore deposits in most western universities for over 30 years.

Dick Stanton retired from the University of New England in 1986 but continued to be active in research. His last publication was written in 2015 in his 90th year! Dick Stanton was a quietly spoken, thoughtful and highly intelligent man who was greatly admired and respected by his students and colleagues.

Dick Stanton received many awards during his career, including the 1956 Olle Prize Royal Society of NSW; 1966 Fulbright Award; 1972 David Syme Prize, University of Melbourne; 1974 President’s Award, AusIMM; 1975 elected to Australian Academy of Science; 1976 Goldfields Medal IMM; 1990 William Smith Medal, Geological Society London; 1990 Browne Medal Geol. Soc. Aust; 1993 Distinguished Alumni Award UNE; 1998 SEG Penrose Gold Medal; 1998 Haddon Forester King Medal AAS; 1998 Clarke Medal Royal Society of NSW; and 2003 Centenary Medal. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1996 for service to economic geology and geological research.

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