George Eugene Harlow was born on March 8, 1949 in Paterson, New Jersey, the last of four children born to Marion Case and Eugene H. Harlow, a civil engineer. He grew up mostly in the suburbs of New York City, Ridgewood (NJ) and Darien (CT), where he went to junior and senior high school. It was in his 8th grade Earth Science class that he got his first taste of geology. He went to Harvard College in 1967 and got roped into the Nat. Sci. 10 class—also known as “Rocks for Jocks”—a popular course taught by Rusty Kothavala (q.v.). He liked the Geology Department and majored there, receiving his B.A. in 1971 with an honors project involving growing non-stoichiometric spinels and measuring their ultraviolet spectra with Tom Shankland.
George decided to go for his PhD in Geology at Princeton University, after a good experience with some Princeton faculty at the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association Field Camp at Red Lodge, Montana. He became interested in crystallography after taking a class from Charles Burnham at Harvard, and was further inculcated by Gordon Brown, Dan Appleman and Eric Dowty at Princeton. His thesis was on the structures of anorthoclase feldspars at room and high temperature.
Adter receiving his PhD George accepted the position of Curator of Minerals and Gems at the American Museum of Natural History in July 1976, a month after the new mineral hall opened. It is there that he learned his mineralogy through hands-on involvement with the collection. Up to that time he had never formed a personal mineral collection of his own, other than odd specimens collected in the field, and once at the Museum he was forbidden to by Museum policy.
His research has focused on the chemistry and crystal structure of minerals, as applied to understanding their origin and the associated geologic processes, particularly with respect to jadeite rock in Guatemala, Burma and Japan, where he has done fieldwork. He has undertaken expeditions to Burma as part of a comprehensive study of the origin and mineralogy of the deposits in the Mogok Stone Tract and the jadeite jade of the Jade Tract and Nansibon. He is also interested in the high-pressure crystal chemistry of mantle minerals.
In addition to his curatorial duties and research interests, he is an adjunct professor in the City College of New York graduate program, and an adjunct senior research scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. And he has served as President of the Society for Mineral Museum Professionals (1993-1996), and as Secretary of the Mineralogical Society of America (2003-2007).
As Curator George has mounted numerous exhibitions in the Museum, including It's Gold! (1979-1980), Tiffany: 150 Years of Gems and Jewelry (1988), Global Warming (1992), and The Nature of Diamonds (1997), an exhibition which traveled to San Diego, Tokyo, Quebec and Midland, Michigan, was seen by 1.4 million people, and was accompanied by a book of the same name which he edited and helped write. He is also co-author of Simon & Schuster's Guide to Rocks and Minerals (1978), Gems and Crystals from the American Museum of Natural History (1991), and Minerals and Gems from the American Museum of Natural History (1994). During his tenure, the Columbia University Systematic Mineral Collection and the Columbia University Economic Geology Collection have been added to the mineral collection. Collection growth has focused on California and Himalaya pegmatites, minerals from Mogok, and jades (both jadeite and nephrite) worldwide. Over his tenure at the museum the collection has grown from about 45,000 to about 120,000 specimens.
In recognition of his many achievements, George Harlow received the Mineralogical Society of America's Distinguished Public Service Medal for 2003. When asked “have you thought of going to some other institution?” he responds with the question “Where else am I going to have the opportunities, challenges, and fun than as curator at the American Museum of Natural History?”
POST, J. (2004) Presentation of the Distinguished Public Service Medal of 2003 to George Harlow. American Mineralogist, 89, 907.
Mineralogical Society of America 2003 Election Information
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||George Harlow with jadeite specimens|
(Tucson Show, 1985)