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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 61
ROBERT MINARD GARRELS
August 24, 1916-March 8, 1988
BY ROBERT A. BERNER
WITH THE PASSING of Robert M. Garrels, the world has lost a unique individual. He is among the handful of persons that over the past half century truly altered the course of geochemistry, which was his specialty, as well as that of earth science in general. Hidden within this modest, affable, kind, and considerate man was the soul of a revolutionary, and it is the hope of this biographical memoir to document the revolution that he led.
Bob Garrels was born in Detroit, Michigan, on August 24, 1916, the second of three children of John Carlyle and Margaret Anne Garrels. His father was a successful chemical engineer who, in his youth, was an outstanding athlete both as an All-American football player and as an Olympian who placed second in the 110-meter hurdles and third in the shotput in the 1908 Olympics. (Can you imagine the same individual being able to successfully compete in both events today?) Bob inherited the love of athletics from his father and was athletically active all his life until he was felled by cancer during his last year. In fact, for a few months Bob was the holder of the world's high-jump record for fifty-seven-year-old men.
Bob's childhood years, from age six through twelve, were spent in Saltville, in the mountainous southwestern part of