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Hatten S. Yoder Jr., 82; Leading Researcher on Volcanic Basalt

August 12, 2003|From the Washington Post

Hatten S. Yoder Jr., an expert on volcanic basalt whose research about the effects of high pressure and temperature on minerals contributed to knowledge about the origins of life, has died. He was 82.

Yoder died Aug.2 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., after suffering from sepsis, a bleeding disorder and renal failure.

The emeritus director of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, Yoder did experimental research in geology and petrology for more than half a century. His investigations included the physical chemistry of silicate and sulfide, energy in molten systems and abiotic synthesis of organic compounds.

He pioneered a technique and apparatus for high-pressure research on basalt that was later used by lab scientists who found unexpected chemical reactions in deep hydrothermal vents of the sea. The reactions were believed to have played a key role in the conversion of nitrogen to ammonia, a step in the development of life.

The mineral yoderite was named for him after he synthesized the compound.

Yoder served on a number of national scientific advisory boards. His publications included the book "Generation of Basaltic Magma" (1976) and more than 100 articles in scientific journals. He was editor of the book "The Evolution of the Igneous Rocks: Fiftieth Anniversary Perspectives" (1979).

Yoder served in the Navy as a meteorologist in the Pacific and Europe during World War II. In 1945, he worked with a team of Russian and U.S. meteorologists in Siberia to establish a weather monitoring station before the planned Allied invasion of Japan. He described that experience in his book "Planned Invasion of Japan, 1945: The Siberian Weather Advantage" (1997).

A native of Cleveland, Yoder graduated from the University of Chicago. He did graduate work in geology at the University of Minnesota and received a doctorate in the subject at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He held honorary doctorates from the University of Paris and the Colorado School of Mines.

Yoder became an experimental petrologist at Carnegie in 1948 and was named director in 1971. His research continued after he retired as director in 1986.

He was president of the Mineralogical Society of America and belonged to a number of other national and international professional societies. Among them were the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the Geological and Chemical Societies of Washington. He was a founding member of the Geochemical Society.

His honors included some of the highest awards in earth science, including the Roebling Medal of the Mineralogical Society of America, and top awards of the Geological Society of America and the National Academy of Sciences.

Survivors include his daughter, Karen Wallace of Gaithersburg, Md., and a granddaughter.

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