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Richard Hutchinson has made enduring contributions to mineral exploration during his career as an economic geologist and educator. He was among the first to recognize and document characteristics of specific base metal and gold deposits, which led to standards, or models, used by geologists around the world for new discoveries.
Hutchinson is a visionary scientist able to bridge the gap between academia and the practical world of exploration. He has presented geology with a strong economic focus, and encouraged industry to embrace new ideas and theories. In the field, he contributed to a series of diverse discoveries ranging from base metals in New Brunswick to potash in Saskatchewan and rare-earth deposits in Manitoba and Mozambique. In the classroom, he mentored and inspired a generation of students, with many later rising to industry prominence. He made their search for mineral deposits exciting, challenging, and in many cases, rewarding.
Born and raised in Ontario, Hutchinson earned a B.Sc. degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1950, followed by a M.Sc. degree in 1951 and a Ph.D. degree in 1954 from the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, he worked in industry for a decade, and then spent the next three decades in academia, first at the University of Western Ontario and later at the Colorado School of Mines. He also worked as a consultant, which further stimulated his interest in the geological controls and origins of mineral deposits.
While no mineral deposit failed to capture his interest, Hutchinson is best known for his concise articulation of the key attributes of the syngenetic model for volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits. His original work, first published in 1965, provided exploration criteria that underpin the global search for these valuable deposits today.
Hutchinson also championed models for various types of gold deposits. His theories were used to make important discoveries in the Thompson-Bousquet camp of Quebec, and helped identify the Izok Lake VMS deposit in the Northwest Territories. He contributed to the recognition of gold deposits in the Hemlo camp of Ontario, and developed methods to identify productive pegmatites as sources of “high-technology” metals.
Hutchinson has authored or co-authored hundreds of papers published in academic and industry journals. His awards are numerous and varied. They include: the CIM’s Barlow medals in 1970 and 1979; the Geological Association of Canada’s Duncan Derry Gold Medal in 1983; the Colorado Scientific Society’s Past President’s award in 1984; the Society of Economic Geologists’ Silver Medal in 1985; the Geological Society of South Africa’s Jubilee Gold Medal in 1990; and the Penrose Gold Medal of the Society of Economic Geologists in 2005, for unusually original work in the earth sciences.
A tireless speaker, he has shown a remarkable ability to add excitement and passion to scientific discussions and debates. His industry peers maintain that his legacy is best reflected in the success of the many students in industry, academia, and government whom he inspired and mentored over three decades –- “an army of geological disciples now spread around the globe.”