Maria Mange

By February 24, 2011


Aug. 7, 1935 — Jan. 30, 2011

Maria Mange died of cancer on Jan. 30, 2011, in Davis, where she was an emeritus senior research associate. She was born Maria Anna Rajetsky on Aug. 7, 1935, in Kaposvar, Hungary, as the eldest of three sisters — Maria, Agnes and Szuszi — where she excelled in science, skating and gymnastics. She gained her B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. on “Heavy Mineral Suites of the Hungarian Basin”  from the University of Budapest at the time of the student foment and unrest during the Russian invasion of Hungary in the late 1950s, which developed her independence and indomitable spirit of self-reliance and courage.

As a geologist with the Geological Survey of Hungary in Budapest, she acquired profound skills in the use of detrital heavy minerals, which was to be the foundation of a brilliant research career. She married Istvan Gedeon in 1956 and had a son, Akos, who died in 2002. In 1973, she was divorced, and married Emile Mange, D.F.C., a dual Swiss/British citizen and war hero who captained Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.

She and Emile lived first in South Kensington and then in Berne. In Imperial College, as a Groves Fellow, from 1976 to1980, she became a close friend of Janet Watson, FRS, and was awarded a D.I.C. in 1979, under the supervision of Graham Evans, for her work on the heavy mineral suites of the Turkish Mediterranean. In Berne from 1980 to1988, with Albert Matter, she worked on the Ebro Basin and did ground-breaking work on the heavy minerals of the Alpine molasse and flysch, recognizing the high-pressure components glaucophane and lawsonite. In Berne, she developed the techniques of high-resolution-heavy-mineral-analysis in stratigraphic correlation, provenance studies, and burial diagenesis, which she has taught to dozens of graduate students and colleagues. While in Berne, she wrote, with Heinz Maurer, the heavy mineral text, “Schwermineralen in Farben.”

In 1987, Maria accepted a part-time position in Oxford but Emile died that summer. Maria, nevertheless, came to Oxford in 1988 where she rapidly became a highly valued member of the Department of Earth Sciences through her research on the Triassic and Cretaceous sediments of the North Sea and her constant and selfless instruction of, and research cooperation with and help for staff and research students, notably Lidia Lonergan, Philip Allen and John Dewey. Through this period, she consulted for petroleum companies and built a formidable reputation as the world’s leading heavy mineral expert, while cooperating with David Wright in both academic and consulting work. She did ground-breaking work on the Lower Palaeozoic strata of western Ireland and the Southern Uplands.

In 2000, she accepted a position at UC Davis in recognition of her heavy mineral work, which enabled her to pursue purely academic research and the teaching of undergraduate and research students. She loved California, her friends in Davis — especially Elinor Kollmann, who was her devoted friend to the end — her garden, and her colleagues in the UC Davis geology department, the happiest phase of her life. Maria was a profoundly knowledgeable and skilled mineralogist and petrographer in the mold of the mineralogical genius Stuart Agrell. Like Stuart, one could not show her a mineral that she could not identify. In 2007, she published a monumental work “Heavy Minerals in Use,” which she edited and largely wrote and rewrote. She was the consummate perfectionist in her research and her life.

At every place in which she worked, she insisted on the finest coffee and educated her colleagues in its finer points. At the time of her death, she was, with David Wright, completing a revision of “Schwermineralen in Farben.” She was a kind and generous person who spent her life giving but never taking. She is survived by her sister, Szuszi Rajetsky of Budapest. Her death leaves a sadness in her family, colleagues and friends, and a deep void in the quantitative study of heavy minerals. Heartfelt thanks to “Support for Home” and Kaiser Hospice. At Maria’s request, there will be no memorial service.

Enterprise staff

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