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Prof. Gordon E. Brown Jr., chairman of the Geology Department, is the first holder of a new chair, the Dorrell William Kirby Professorship in Earth Sciences.
Brown's appointment was announced by Prof. W. Gary Ernst, dean of the School of Earth Sciences, who noted that Dorrell Kirby was a mineral collector and Brown is a world authority on mineralogy.
Dorrell Kirby was a Stanford student majoring in geology from 1921 to 1923. Instead of completing work for his degree, he withdrew to join his father in a successful family mining business. The Kirby Chair was established by his son, Robert G. Kirby, a 1949 Stanford graduate in psychology, now chairman of the board of Capital Guardian Trust Company.
Robert Kirby's $1.2 million pledge, plus $400,000 in Centennial matching funds, created the new professorship. Kirby has served Stanford also as a volunteer fund-raiser and a lecturer to investment and finance classes at the Graduate School of Business.
Brown, a professor of mineralogy and geochemistry, has taught at Stanford since 1973 and chaired the Geology Department since 1986. He was co-director of the Stanford Center for Materials Research from 1987 to 1989 and serves as the curator of the Stanford mineral collection.
Brown and his students carry out research in both low- temperature and high-temperature geochemistry. Through the interdisciplinary Aqueous and Surface Geochemistry Group, they focus on molecular-level study of chemical reactions at mineral- water interfaces with spectroscopic methods that utilize high- intensity synchrotron radiation.
These studies have multiple applications, including mineral separation, hydrogeochemical exploration for metals and oil, and the impact of acid rain on watersheds. They also provide critical data for predicting the transport and adsorption of toxic metals and other dissolved pollutants in groundwaters.
Brown earned his bachelor's degree (1965) in chemistry and geology at Millsaps College in Mississippi and his master's (1968) and doctorate (1970) in mineralogy and crystallography from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
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