I am reading this paper, and the authors have an interesting affiliation:


Center for Geoalchemy, MIT? A quick Google Scholar search shows that it was a thing in the late 1970s to 1980s. Seems like they were researching geochemical petrology. Any ideas for the source/reason for this name?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1 I believe questions like this are vital, as they are an integral part of the development of ideas in Earth Sciences. $\endgroup$
    – user889
    Dec 24 '14 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ Great name; it reminds me of the Center for Rock Abuse, a prolific rock physics lab, at Colorado School of Mines. I suspect it's just some geochemist's shining wit, and maybe a wink at geochemistry's early history. But I'd love to know the full story if anyone knows it. $\endgroup$
    – kwinkunks
    Dec 26 '14 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ And let's not forget Wasserburg's Lunatic Asylum! $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Dec 26 '14 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ We have a lab called the "UV Toy Box" $\endgroup$
    – user889
    Dec 30 '14 at 6:37
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @kwinkunks: a bit of sly humour, probably intended as a nod to the sizable gaps in our current understanding -- cf. Hess' essay in geopoetry and jocular references to palaeomagnetists as palaeomagicians. (As a pure speculation, I wouldn't be surprised if the Center for Geoalchemy's disappearance in the 1980s was due to a higher-up stumbling across the name and deciding it was "unprofessional".) $\endgroup$
    – Pont
    Jan 9 '15 at 11:29

This is no trivial search and as I was not able to source any information from the MIT website - this is a part answer.

Any Internet search for the term Geoalchemy brings up the a support library for SQLAlchemy, that adds support for spatial databases. (Stack Overflow has a tags for geoalchemy and geoalchemy2)- none of which is really related to why the department was named so, interestingly, the program has a MIT licence.

Some examples of the usage of the term extend to recent times:

Geo-Alchemy: Turning Sand into Sandstone and other Microbiological and Bio-Inspired Ground Improvement Technologies.

It seems from these examples, past and present, that the term 'geoalchemy' stems from the terms geology and alchemy and was (and in some cases, still is) used as a fancy way of saying 'geochemistry'.

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    $\begingroup$ MIT license is one of the most common open source licenses, it's not that interesting :P $\endgroup$
    – naught101
    Jan 8 '15 at 6:23

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