2.3 History of Thin Section Preparation

Elizabeth Johnson and Juhong Christie Liu

image

Figure 2.3.1. Steinmann’s section cutting machine excerpted from Johannsen, A. p.576.

The first thin sections were created in the early- to mid- nineteenth century.  In this section, we explore some of the primary literature to learn about historical methods for creating thin sections.

Learning Objectives

  • Summarize the history of thin section preparation in the geosciences.

Prior Knowledge and Skills

  • 2.1 Overview of thin sections and thick sections (recommended)

Key Terms

  • None

Guided Inquiry

Please read over the references listed at the end of this section before attempting to answer the guided inquiry questions. All but one (Keyes 1925) are accessible for free online.  Please note that the references are listed in alphabetical order, not in chronological order.

2.3.1 When were the first thin sections made?  Do Holmes and Johannsen agree on the exact history of the technique?

2.3.2 Compare the method of Sorby to the method of Holmes or Johannsen.  How are the procedures the same? How are they different?

2.3.3 How is the equipment described in Sorby, different from the equipment described by Keyes or Reed and Mergner?

2.3.4 Compare the writing styles of the authors – how are the articles different from each other?  Why do you think this is the case?

 

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Figure 2.3.2: Hand section grinding machine excerpted from Johannsen, A. p.590.

Concept Check

If thin section making is such an “old technology,” why do you think we continue to prepare and analyze thin sections in much the same way today?

References

  1. Holmes, Arthur (1923), Chapter VI. Preparation of thin sections. Petrographic methods and calculations, London, Thomas Murby & Co, Pt. 2, 231-249.

 

  1. Johannsen, Albert (1918), Chapter XLI. Preparation of thin sections of rocks. Manual of petrographic methods, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co.2d ed., p.572-60.

 

  1. Keyes, Mary G. (1925) Making thin sections of rocks. Am J Sci, Series 5, Vol. 10:538-550; doi:10.2475/ajs.s5-10.60.538.
image

Figure 2.3.3: Title page of a Department of Agriculture report co-authored by Mary G. Keyes in 1942.

 

  • Perhaps she had a long and productive career as a geochemist and laboratory scientist in various government laboratories.
  • The introduction for this paper is written by Henry Washington from the Geophysical Laboratory whose character and career is well documented (https://library.gl.ciw.edu/GLHistory/pgwash.html ).

 

  1. Reed, Frank S. and Mergner, John L. (1953) Preparation of rock thin sections.  American Mineralogist, 38, 1184-1203.

 

  1. Sorby, H. C. (1882), Preparation of transparent sections of rocks and minerals: Northern Microscopist, London, 2, 18, 133-140.

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Figure 2.3.4: An illustration of a volcanic rock in thin section by Vogelsang: Mikrolitconcretion aus der Lava von Cisterna am Vesuv.

 

  1. Vogelsang, H. (1867), Philosophie der geologic und mikroscopische Gesteinsstudien, Bonn. 225-228.

 

  1. Zirkel, Ferdinand (1873) Präparation der Objecte. Die Mikroskopische Beschaffenheit der Mineralien und Gestiene. Leipzig, Werlag von Wilhelm Engelmann, p. 6.

 

Licenses and Attributions

Figure 2.3.1: Steinmann’s section cutting machine excerpted from Johannsen, A. p.576.

https://books.google.com/books/content?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA576&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1wCMMo4FhKJ4TsF03TO3M1Xr4ePQ&ci=147%2C501%2C390%2C531&edge=0

<a href=”https://books.google.com/books?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA576&ci=147%2C501%2C390%2C531&source=bookclip”><img src=”https://books.google.com/books/content?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA576&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1wCMMo4FhKJ4TsF03TO3M1Xr4ePQ&ci=147%2C501%2C390%2C531&edge=0″/></a>

Figure 2.3.2: Hand section grinding machine excerpted from Johannsen, A. p.590.

https://books.google.com/books/content?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA590&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3-Ol6iu54WI8mEli7RQbkRMglT7g&ci=168%2C255%2C759%2C400&edge=0

<a href=”https://books.google.com/books?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA590&ci=168%2C255%2C759%2C400&source=bookclip”><img src=”https://books.google.com/books/content?id=WdlLAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA590&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3-Ol6iu54WI8mEli7RQbkRMglT7g&ci=168%2C255%2C759%2C400&edge=0″/></a>

Figure 2.3.3: Title page of a Department of Agriculture report co-authored by Mary G. Keyes in 1942.

https://books.google.com/books/content?id=v_f5hdlkSwYC&pg=RA13-PP1&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1_UMiBxrS3MdMd0vJKa9MarIRZtQ&ci=7%2C102%2C610%2C977&edge=0

<a href=”https://books.google.com/books?id=v_f5hdlkSwYC&lpg=RA13-PP1&dq=mary%20keyes%20washington%20dc%20chemist&pg=RA13-PP1&ci=7%2C102%2C610%2C977&source=bookclip”><img src=”https://books.google.com/books/content?id=v_f5hdlkSwYC&pg=RA13-PP1&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1_UMiBxrS3MdMd0vJKa9MarIRZtQ&ci=7%2C102%2C610%2C977&edge=0″/></a>

Figure 2.3.4: An illustration of a volcanic rock in thin section by Vogelsang: Mikrolitconcretion aus der Lava von Cisterna am Vesuv.

https://books.google.com/books/content?id=8QT_eXtdyzkC&pg=PT18&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3y8–ghwX_duUEJs5NRJjr6nUvcg&ci=226%2C137%2C650%2C1179&edge=0

<a href=”https://books.google.com/books?id=8QT_eXtdyzkC&pg=PT18&ci=226%2C137%2C650%2C1179&source=bookclip”><img src=”https://books.google.com/books/content?id=8QT_eXtdyzkC&pg=PT18&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U3y8–ghwX_duUEJs5NRJjr6nUvcg&ci=226%2C137%2C650%2C1179&edge=0″/></a>

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