Arthur Gaskin retired in October 1983 after a long career with CSIRO, his last 21 years as foundation Chief of the Division of Applied Mineralogy (1962-70) and of the Division of Mineralogy (1970-83). During this period, he developed and guided the substantial expansion of research in CSIRO in the fields of mineralogy and geochemistry.
The development of these Divisions was on a central theme of interrelated research on fundamental concepts oi metallogenesis and on the new geochemical methods for mineral exploration. Closely associated from the beginning with the minerals industry, this policy very much reflected his unusual breadth of experience and perspective.
After majoring in both geology and chemistry at the University of Melbourne, Arthur Gaskin worked on urgent wartime problems of ceramic and cement technology at the Division of Industrial
Chemistry, which he joined in 1942. Then followed eight years as lecturer in geology at the University of Melbourne, with diverse duties including lecturing in structural geology, as well as providing an innovative course in the then new topic of geochemistry. During this period he introduced modern mineralogical methods into Australian University research, while maintaining a part-time association with the Division of Industrial Chemistry. For three years he also acted as Seismologist, operating the Victorian Seismological station.
In 1953 Arthur was appointed Officer-in-Charge of the CSIRO Cement and Ceramics Section, and began his return to CSIRO with a year at Cambridge on a Nuffield Fellowship. On returning he commenced broadening the scope of the Section while at the same time maintaining its highly valued technological assistance to industry. His development of a reduction process for ilmenite, which was taken up commercially, marked one aspect of a more mineralogical trend for this Section and in 1962 the group, together with the Mineragraphic Investigations Section, became the Division of Applied Mineralogy, with Arthur Gaskin as first Chief.
A new laboratory of this Division was established in Perth, and under Arthur’s guidance became a research centre with a unique and highly successful combination of mineralogists and physical chemists.
Following the creation of the Minerals Research Laboratories in 1970, Perth became Arthur’s headquarters for a new CSIRO Division of Mineralogy, with a second main laboratory at North Ryde,
and continued responsibility for the CSIRO component of the Baas Becking Laboratory at Canberra.
Arthur travelled extensively, fostered a close relationship with the minerals industry and developed an outstanding personal appreciation of the special features of mineral deposits and their geological settings. His integration of chemistry and geology fostered research in the Division. Of his many scientific activities, the recognition of the fundamental structure of opal, followed by its first synthesis, attracted special interest. Greatly appreciated by the Division was his cultivated and well shared oenological interest.
Adapted from submissions to CoResearch (no. 266, November 1983), p. 6 and CoResearch (no. 268. February 1984), p. 5