Book Of Remembrance Of

60th birthday photo

Mervyn Paterson

This book collects condolences and remembrances of Mervyn Paterson from his friends and colleagues in the world of geoscience, upon which he made such a major impact.

The following is a URL link to the recording of the (non-religious) funeral service: 

This page will ask for a code which is: 1030 – if you put this number in it will take you to a page where you can stream the service or download a link.

Donations can be made to the Mervyn and Katalin Paterson Fellowship, which supports overseas travel for ANU graduate students via:

The following obituary is provided by his ANU colleague Ian Jackson:

Mervyn Paterson (1925-2020) spent his formative early years in remote rural South Australia before the family moved to the Adelaide Hills. In order to attend the Adelaide Technical High School and night school, he boarded with his grandmother in Adelaide during the week. His subsequent studies at the University of Adelaide, involving a strong emphasis on practical metallurgy, culminated in his graduation in 1943 (aged 18!) with a Bachelor of Science (Engineering). He then moved to Melbourne where he worked on the physics of metal fatigue for the CSIR Division of Aeronautics recently established at Fisherman’s Bend. His years at CSIR (later CSIRO) included substantial interruptions for doctoral research at the University of Cambridge and a post-doctoral appointment at the University of Chicago. His PhD research, supported by an Angas Engineering Scholarship supplemented by CSIR, involved X-ray diffraction of deformed metals, under the supervision of Egon Orowan, one of the co-discoverers of the role of dislocations in the plastic deformation of metals. At International House at the University of Chicago he met his future wife Katalin – a brave young woman who had fled her native Hungary following the communist takeover, and completed undergraduate studies in Paris, before moving to Chicago for postgraduate study.

Mervyn Paterson was recruited to the fledgling Department of Geophysics at ANU as a Reader in Crystal Physics by Professor John Jaeger, and arrived in Canberra in early 1953.  The appointment by an applied mathematician of a metallurgical engineer to study rock deformation was an indication of Jaeger’s commitment to bring relevant expertise from the physical sciences into the earth sciences. Mervyn Paterson’s long and successful career at the ANU was founded on his flair for the design and development of innovative equipment, constructed in house, for the experimental deformation of geological materials under conditions of high pressure and temperature. His early work included studies of kinking and folding in phyllite, the mechanical properties of serpentinite, and seminal investigations of the transition with increasing pressure from brittle to ductile deformation. A comprehensive overview of brittle-field rock deformation was presented in Mervyn’s influential 1978 monograph, later updated in collaboration with Teng-fong Wong. Later in his career, in collaboration with his colleagues and his many students, he worked intensively on the plastic deformation of quartz, on the rheology of olivine-rich rocks of the Earth’s upper mantle, and on laboratory studies of seismic-wave attenuation.

By the time of Mervyn’s ‘retirement’ in 1990, his internally heated high-pressure apparatus for experimental rock deformation was clearly the instrument of choice for experimental studies of rock deformation. Through his company Paterson Scientific Instruments, and later in collaboration with the ANU’s Australian Scientific Instruments, he responded to pent-up demand by delivering such equipment of ever-increasing sophistication to leading laboratories worldwide. Recognising the importance to students of the chance to travel overseas to attend major conferences and visit other universities, Mervyn established and funded the Mervyn and Katalin Paterson Fellowship which annually provides such opportunities for ANU PhD students.

Recognition of his research achievements includes election to Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science, the Mineralogical Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and award in 2004 of the AGU’s lifetime-achievement Walter H. Bucher Medal in recognition of original contributions to the basic knowledge of crust and lithosphere. Mervyn passed away peacefully on Thursday 4 June at St Andrews Village, Hughes. Mervyn and Katalin Paterson are survived by their children Elizabeth and Barrie and their families.

Ian Jackson 7 June 2020


Book Owner: E.Rutter
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Mark Handy

As a young postdoc interested in rock mechanics and microstructures, I invited Mervyn to our department in Bern to give a talk and a seminar. It was sometime in the very late 80s or early 90s, and he had been visiting the ETH in Zürich to help install one of his newest Paterson rigs with Dave Olgaard who was in charge of the lab at the time. I had been a close follower of Mervyn‘s work since reading his 1973 paper on nonhydrostatic thermodynamics of pressure solution and was eager to discuss more recent results he and others in his lab had published (and that I had cited) on fine-grained polycrystalline olivine. Although I did not know him well, I offered him the guest room in the flat that my then-wife and I had at the time, and he readily accepted. After his talk and dinner for him and others at a local restaurant, we walked back to our place for a nightcap. On the way, I asked him how he had become involved in rock mechanics and, in a subdued manner, he recounted his formative years at Adelaide, CSIRO and Cambridge as well as the beginnings of ANU. …

Kumar Kekulawala (Sri Lanka)

(Unfortunately, I got the sad news of Mervyn’s passing away only at the end of October. Though I made several attempts to have some news inbetween. Hence this delay in my response) From the day I met Mervyn Paterson has his PhD student in the September of 1974 both he and Katerlyn have been our teacher, mentor and close friend specially for our initiation in to the new life in Canberra. For us it was our first overseas trip; Mervyn & Katerlyn did everything possible for us to feel Canberra a second home away from Sri Lanka. With a background in physics and maths (with no Geology!) quartz work esp. on single crystals fitted with my original intention of working on a solid state physics problem for my PhD. Mervyn was the ideal supervisor who fitted with such boundary conditions! He first let me go through all the relavent literature including the seminal work of Griggs/Blacic at UCLA around 1970. Mervyn was always available for all discussions, advice, and guidance required. As a result of the advice and independance I enjoyed at RSES we could make a number of very significant discoveries on the experimental side of quartz deformation, …

Bob Liebermann

When I arrive in Canberra in 1970, my ultrasonic equipment greeted me and we were able to synthesize high-pressure phases of minerals in Ted Ringwood’s lab.  But I had no way to measure sound velocities of these specimens at high pressure.  Mervyn kindly gave me access to one of his pressure vessels which enabled me to collect data which I reported at the IUGG Congress in Moscow in 1971. In the subsequent 6 years, Mervyn invited me to attend the meetings of his research group at which I met many of his colleagues, postdocs and students, including Bruce Hobbs, Jim Boland, Stefan Schmid and others. Mervyn and his wife Katali invited me and my wife Barbara to dinner at their home to enjoy fine food and excellent wine.  Later, Mervyn was a guest at our flat in Garran and brought a bottle of wiine; but he would not let me touch it as it was too precious to trust a Yank to open it. I have fond memories of Mervyn from my days at the ANU and send my condolences to his children. Bob Liebermann …

Barry Raleigh

Mervyn and Jaeger invited me to Canberra on a post-doc in 1963 when Mervyn was finishing his first high T/P apparatus. He was properly dubious but, being the gentle man he always was, permitted me to help complete it. It’s first use was in the experiments that showed the embrittlement of serpentinite at the onset of dehydration, a subject that I had brought with me from my doctoral experience at UCLA. I also inadvertently demonstrated the embrittlement of high pressure vessels subjected to internal rusting caused by condensation! I stayed at Canberra for four years and Mervyn and I became friends, going to the Canberra wine society and on occasional trips together. I was even allowed to drive his classic 1950 Bentley. He was considerate and a wonderful mentor and all of us he knew him will think of him always. Barry Raleigh …

Andreas Kronenberg

How lucky we have been as scientists engaged in rock mechanics research to live and work in the presence of one of the legends in our field, Mervyn S. Paterson. While I never had the first-hand pleasure of working with Mervyn side-by-side in the laboratory, I have so many fond memories of discussions with him, exchanges in writing, and pleasant times over a dinner, while hiking or while bird watching. No doubt, future generations of scientists will continue to know M.S. Paterson for his remarkable scientific accomplishments, his enduring publications, and the elegant, refined instruments he contributed to our labs. However, what I hope to convey here is how friendly and gentle a man he was, at the same time that he accomplished so much. I knew of Mervyn Paterson long before I met him, first as a student when my mentors expressed their sense of awe for his work, and then by reading his outstanding papers that featured exacting measurements at challenging laboratory temperature and pressure conditions. His studies touched on much of what we know about dislocation creep, diffusion creep, and grain boundary sliding of silicates and carbonates, evaluating creep laws and characterizing microstructures, defects, and textures …

Alba, wife of Luigi Burlini

I write of memories of the friendship between my husband, Luigi Burlini (deceased 2009), and Mervyn Paterson. Luigi was the lucky director of the Experimental Deformation Laboratory in Zurich from 1998 to 2009, in the Structural Geology Group of Professor Burg. The laboratory was (and is) equipped with two Paterson rigs, affectionately known as Patti9 and Patti6. In those years Mervyn visited the laboratory several times. Each visit was an opportunity for Luigi to both work hard and taste good wine with Mervyn. I still remember evenings where the dinner table was filled with both wine glasses and drawings of new machine designs. The most cherished memory I have of the two men is of one of these visits during my husband’s convalescence after a very invasive surgery. Mervyn visited Luigi in the rehabilitation clinic in the mountains. Luigi was struggling to breathe, but they spent a couple of hours bent over complicated drawings. Luigi was thrilled: it was the best message of friendship he could receive at that moment. I don’t have to repeat here how Mervyn was an exceptional scientist. From my perspective he was also an exceptional human being.   Figure caption: Happy users of the Paterson machines 6&9, from right to left: Luigi Burlini, Marina Armann, Claudio Delle Piane …

Jean-Pierre Burg and ETH team

Here is the beginning of torsion deformation of rocks at the ETH Zurich. Mervyn’s concepts on torsion were disputed but we decided to try it. The first torsion rig arrived in 1994, and after some lengthy unpacking was installed in a specially made pit to fit the height of the apparatus (#6). Mervyn could not miss this event and his thoughtful expertise was crucial for the installation and subsequent successful experiments. This naturally led us to purchase the second apparatus (#9) which has been extensively used to measure physical properties of rocks. Our lab is indebted to his enthusiasm and creativity. Jean-Pierre Burg and ETH team   …

David and Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Mervyn set high standards in his own research, in his expectation of collaborators, and in his evaluation of Australian and other wines.  In the early 1970s, Mervyn generously took some of his sabbatical time to talk with a young postdoc officemate when we both worked in Bill Brace’s lab at MIT.  A decade later, my own sabbatical took me on an adventure to Mervyn’s lab in Canberra.  Our interaction reached a new intensity when he installed a Paterson apparatus in Minnesota in the early 1990s and another in the early 2000s.  In Cambridge, Mervyn challenged me to hone my thinking about the importance, or lack thereof, of deforming single crystals.  In Canberra, he demonstrated the need for careful experimental design and thorough execution.  In Minneapolis, he impressed all of us with elegant and technologically advanced ‘white boxes’ that around the world have produced fundamental and foundational results on the physical properties of rocks and minerals. This pattern of generous scientific and technical engagement not only was significant in my career but also echoed through the students, post-docs and visitors with whom he engaged in Australia and on his multiple trips to Europe, Asia and the United States. As a …

Hans de Bresser

The contribution of Mervyn Paterson to science and in particular to the experimental rock deformation has been enormous, and his papers have contributed substantially to my own development. I must have read his 1980 paper on Carrara marble, with Stefan Schmid and Jim Boland, more often than any other paper. At the HPT-laboratory at Utrecht University, we had our own gas apparatus, that I usually referred to as a Non-Paterson-Rig. That definitely was meant to honour him in our own way, and I have good memories of the occasions we met and talked about his and our experimental work. I offer my deepest condolences to his family. …

Steve Mackwell

I started my PhD with Mervyn in early 1980. Having come to ANU with a degrees in Physics and Mathematics, and spent my Master’s research doing observational stellar spectroscopy, I lacked a background in geology and certainly in the mechanical properties of rocks and minerals. On my first day, Mervyn summoned me into his office to have a conversation about thesis topics and what would be needed to bring me up to speed with the necessary background. It was simple: he wanted me to work on hydrolytic weakening of quartz, following up on Kumar Kekulawala’s thesis work of a couple of years prior. And for the next few months I was to learn all I needed to know about the topic, and the necessary experimental and analytical techniques. My mentor through this process would be Dave Mainprice. I was sent on my way, with instructions to return when I was ready for a further discussion on my thesis topic. Over the next couple of months, I learned a lot about the current and past projects within Mervyn’s group … especially including the challenges of addressing water weakening of quartz at relatively modest pressures. After many discussions with Dave and …