The idea of magma mixing: History of a struggle for acceptance

Journal of Geology



In 1851, chemist Robert Bunsen suggested that the mixing of two magmas, one mafic and the other felsic, in various proportions might account for the wide range of chemical compositions of igneous rocks. Based on flaws in several of its secondary provisions, the whole hypothesis was rejected by a succession of influential critics and remained in disrepute for a hundred years. Meanwhile, studies of composite dikes and sills indicated that, indeed, mafic and felsic magmas had coexisted at close quarters and had been emplaced in quick succession. This interpretation was also used by some investigators to explain the intimate association of mafic and felsic rock types in the commonly occurring igneous complexes. Others believed that the mafic components of these complexes were derived from geologically older mafic formations. By the early 1900s it had become apparent that mafic magmas crystallized at higher temperatures than felsic magmas. This knowledge was not immediately applied to the problem of magma mixing, however, due in part to the popularity of the newly validated process of fractional crystallization and to the implication that the diversity of igneous rocks could be accounted for by that process alone. Not until the 1950s was the attention of the geological community drawn to the fact that disparate magmas mix in a special manner: they mingle, the mafic magma being quenched to a fracturable solid upon contact with the cooler felsic magma. This explanation set in motion a series of studies of other igneous complexes, confirming the concept and adding other identifying features of the process.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The idea of magma mixing: History of a struggle for acceptance
Series title Journal of Geology
DOI 10.1086/314357
Volume 107
Issue 4
Year Published 1999
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Geology
First page 421
Last page 432