Letter | Published:

Isotopic Composition of the Oxygen in Silicate Rocks

Naturevolume 166pages112113 (1950) | Download Citation



NATURAL oxygen, which forms about 50 per cent of the earth's crust, contains one heavy atom (O18) in almost exactly 500 atoms of the light isotope (O16). There exists, however, an appreciable isotopic differentiation which may be as high as some 4 per cent of the natural ratio and which has been studied extensively by Dole1, Urey2 and many others3. Nevertheless, we know very little about the distribution of the oxygen isotopes in the lithosphere. Only a few of the more abundant rocks such as limestones and iron ores have been investigated; but nothing is known about silicate rocks, which form about 99 per cent of the outer shell of the earth. It is obvious that the study of the oxygen isotope abundances in silicate rocks may yield valuable geological information.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Bole, M., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 58, 693 (1936); ibid., 62, 471 (1940); Science, 109, 77 (1949).

  2. 2

    Urey, H. C., J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 56, 2601 (1934); Science, 108, 489 (1948).

  3. 3

    Reviewed by M. D. Kamen, Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., 87, 103 (1946).

  4. 4

    Pettijohn, F. J., “Sedimentary Rocks” (Harper and Bros., 1949).

Download references

Author information

Author notes


    Present address: Physikalisch-Chemische Anstalt, Universität, Basel,


  1. Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago



  1. Search for PETER BAERTSCHI in:

About this article

Publication history

Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.