Morse Honored by Mineralogical Association of Canada

Stearns A. “Tony” Morse
Stearns A. “Tony” Morse

Stearns A. “Tony” Morse, professor emeritus of geosciences, has received the Mineralogical Association of Canada’s Peacock Medal, its highest award, for “outstanding contributions to the mineral sciences of Canada.” The award was presented at a lunch June 19 during the association’s annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The 1.5-inch diameter gold medal is intended to recognize the breadth and universality of the awardee’s contributions in mineralogy, applied mineralogy, petrology, crystallography, geochemistry or the study of mineral deposits, rather than in a narrow area of expertise, the association states. The Peacock Medal, formerly the Past-Presidents’ Medal, is not restricted to Canadian researchers.

Morse says he was “quite thunderstruck” to receive the letter informing him of the honor, and “if not for some of the fine details I might have supposed it a hoax.” He adds, “What a wonderful thing to be so honored. And especially pleased to have such a recognition from Canada, where all my realities in our splendid science have germinated.”

Morse still has an active research office in geosciences, says department head Julie Brigham-Grette, who adds, “We are very excited for the recognition of Tony Morse with the Peacock Medal for his wonderful and ongoing career in geology. Even I used one of his textbooks to learn phase diagrams when I was an undergraduate student. This award sheds a strong light on his contributions and legacy in the field.”  

Morse earned his undergraduate degree in geology at Dartmouth College, where his father was an English professor. From 1949-52, Morse was a field assistant in archaeology and then oceanography on the 100-foot schooner Blue Dolphin, studying Labrador fjords. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned for further study in Labrador fjords in 1954.

He went on to earn an M.S. and Ph.D. from McGill University and to be hired by British Newfoundland Exploration Ltd., to study the Kiglapait Layered Intrusion in Labrador. He also studied ice as a mineralogist at the U.S. Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire. Morse was a member of the geology faculty at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for nine years before coming to UMass Amherst in 1971.

From 1971-81, he and colleagues from Cornell and Syracuse universities led a large research group studying the Nain Anorthosite from the research vessel Pitsiulak, supported by the National Science Foundation. Anorthosites, an enigmatic intrusive igneous rock also associated with many layered intrusions, occur only in special places and within a special time interval in the geologic record; in North America chiefly in a belt from Labrador to the Adirondacks. How they form is still not well understood.

Morse’s other research work included experiments at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and at Smith College, and studies related to the earliest crust on the Earth and Moon, the nature of the Earth’s core-mantle boundary, and the thermodynamics of rocks and melts. His other honors include life membership in Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and election as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

At the awards lunch, Morse gave a 10-minute talk and later, a half-hour presentation about his scientific and personal history, in particular about his wife Dorothy’s role in his career and research. She and their three daughters served as research assistants in Labrador for many years in the field and aboard ship.