A biographical memoir of Donald Edward White




Donald E. White was a leading scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey, where his career was devoted almost entirely to the study of hydrothermal processes in the Earth’s crust, from the dual perspectives of active geothermal systems and of extinct hydrothermal systems now represented only by ore deposits and alteration patterns. White was devoted to analyzing the mechanisms by which ore-forming metals are concentrated, transported, and deposited. His early work on antimony deposits and on mercury transport led to the understanding that these elements, as well as some precious metals, were concentrated in hydrothermal convection systems characterized by dilute chloride waters of predominantly meteoric origin. He concluded, on the other hand, that base metals required more concentrated brines, as was impressively confirmed in the early 1960s by the discovery of the metal-rich fluids of the Salton Sea geothermal system and subsequently by the recognition of sulfide-depositing hydrothermal systems on the sea floor. His studies of active hot-spring systems elucidated the principles of geyser activity and provided the scientific foundation for research programs aimed at the understanding of geothermal systems throughout the world.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
A biographical memoir of Donald Edward White
Year Published:
National Academy of Sciences
Contributing office(s):
Volcano Science Center
13 p.