Letter | Published:

Isotopic Composition of the Oxygen in Silicate Rocks

Nature volume 166, pages 112113 (15 July 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.

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  1. 1.

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

  2. 2.

    , 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.

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

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  1. Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago. (Present address: Physikalisch-Chemische Anstalt, Universität, Basel.) Feb. 26.



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