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The Consummate Geoscientist: A Celebration of the Career of Maarten de Wit

15 January 2024

Maarten de Wit was a world-renowned geoscientist who specialised in early Earth processes, plate tectonics, and orogenic events. As a long-term admirer of Maarten, I welcomed the chance to read this celebration. Festschrifts, collections of writings published in honour of a scholar, are not common in the sciences, and this volume assembles a collection of papers on the application of plate tectonic principles to ancient orogens. The book’s breadth is considerable in terms of both the topics and the geographical areas studied, reflecting Maarten’s enthusiasm for many aspects of geology and the sustainability of the planet.

The Consummate Geoscientist starts with a summary of Maarten’s work and publications, suitably titled ‘a life well lived’, followed by a helpful introduction to the volume. Topics range from intracontinental orogens in the interior of Nuna, to seismograms across the Grenville Front, the early history of subduction along the Laurentian margin of Iapetus, the origin and evolution of Gondwana and its connections to Pangaea, the provenance of Avalonia, and oroclines in the Variscan. Hans Keidel’s influence on du Toit’s early support of continental drift is also celebrated. There is a strong tectonic bias, highlighting Maarten’s long-term interest in unravelling the tectonic evolution of old continental masses. Many sections are concerned with the formation and break up of Gondwana, of which Maarten published a striking geological map in 1988. Study locations spanning five different continents are explored, from the Laurentian in Newfoundland and Scotland, to the Racklan-Forward Orogen in Canada, to the Proto-Qiangtang Ocean in eastern Asia.

Students and researchers engaged with the topics covered by this collection of papers will be interested in this volume, as well as those seeking to recall Maarten’s career and contributions. The collection is a reminder of the importance of field-based studies in constraining models of tectonic history and the role of well-constrained tectono-stratigraphic sections. Techniques such as the application of strain measurements from twinned calcites as records of continent amalgamation and the potential of ages and Hf isotope ratios of detrital minerals are considered. These are, in turn, set alongside developments in the field of mantle dynamics and the challenges in going from regional studies to larger scale supercontinent tectonics. The editors are to be congratulated on assembling a volume of this breadth and quality, and I hope it is well-received by Maarten’s family and close friends.

Reviewed by Chris Hawkesworth



BY: A.J. Hynes & J.B. Murphy (eds.) (2023). Geological Society of London Special Publication No 531. 446 pp. (hbk)

IBSN: 9781786205797

PRICE: £140.00 (£70.00 for Fellows, £84.00 for other societies) www.geolsoc.org.uk