Arthur Holmes

Arthur Holmes

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Arthur Holmes

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Arthur Holmes (14 January 1890 – 20 September 1965) was a British geologist. As a child he lived in Low Fell, Gateshead and attended the Gateshead Higher Grade School (later Gateshead Grammar School).

Age of the earth

Holmes was a pioneer of geochronology, and performed the first uranium-lead radiometric dating (specifically designed to measure the age of a rock) while an undergraduate at the Royal College of Science (now Imperial College) in London, assigning an age of 370 Ma to a Devonian rock from Norway. This result was published in 1911, after his graduation in 1910. By 1911 he had already spent six months in Mozambique prospecting for minerals. While abroad he had contracted blackwater fever and malaria so severe that a note of his death was sent home by telegraph. However, he returned home and recovered – though suffering life-long recurrences of the illness.

1912 saw Holmes on the staff of Imperial College, publishing his famous booklet The Age of the Earth in 1913 ( he estimated the Earth's age to be 1,600 Ma). He obtained his doctorate (of Science) in 1917 and in 1920 joined an oil company in Burma as chief geologist. The company failed, and he returned to England penniless in 1924. He had been accompanied in Burma by his three-year-old son, who contracted dysentery and died shortly before Holmes’s departure.

In 1924 he was appointed to the newly-created post of reader in geology at......
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