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Autograph Letter Signed to G.W. Card on University of Adelaide letterhead
23 September, University of Adelaide 1906 - Single sheet of note paper entirely in Mawson's hand, folded to 20.3 x 12.6 cm, "The University, Adelaide" letterhead, slight tear at old fold but very good. An attractive scientific letter from Douglas Mawson relating to an early and still unresolved controversy regarding uranium ores from Australia. The letter is addressed to "My dear Card"; given the contents, this is certainly G.W. Card of the NSW Department of Mines. Card gave the first ever account of Australian radioactive minerals in a report published in 1894, and became an authority in the field. Mawson graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Sydney in 1902, and his early work on geology led to his appointment as a lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the University of Adelaide. He immediately became interested in the glacial geology of South Australia, but he also worked on radioactive minerals, identifying and describing the mineral davidite (containing titanium and uranium) in specimens from the region now known as Radium Hill, near Olary. That deposit was the first major radioactive ore body discovered in Australia. Mawson's letter relates to a controversy caused by the French mining engineer Charles Poulot, among other things credited with discovering the properties of carnotite, the major source for radium. In a 1909 paper by T.H. Laby, Poulot was quoted as saying that he had seen an enormous amount of apparently Australian ore from New England at a treatment works in Germany. The veracity of Poulot's assertion has been questioned, but as this 1906 letter asserts, it had already caused great consternation among the scientific fraternity even before Laby's paper was published. Indeed, Card had obviously approached Mawson about this bombshell, because the latter writes without preamble: 'How on earth did the 7 tons of radio-active ore leave Melbourne without general knowledge. Don't you think that M. Poulot has got the wrong details somehow or perhaps been "stuffed" by the German firm.' Mawson goes on to speculate on whether the ore being discussed has not, in fact, come from Austrian silver-lead mines, and discusses the valuable offers he has been made for uranium ores from 'London and New York brokers'. The letter concludes with a discussion of how discouraged Mawson is becoming regarding the ore from Olary. Olary was the site of some of Mawson's earliest significant scientific research, especially regarding glacial formation. On the controversy see David Branagan, 'Davidite and Other Early Events in Australia's Uranium Story', Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, vol. 140). [Attributes: Soft Cover]
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-08-13           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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