JCK Remembers Dr. Pough

Dr. Frederick Pough, (pronounced POE) mineralogist, museum curator, and former gemstone editor for JCK magazine, died April 7 in Rochester, N.Y. Pough suffered a fatal heart attack while attending the 33rd annual Rochester Mineralogical Symposium near his home in Pittsford, N.Y. He was 99.

Pough earned his undergraduate degree, M.S. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, then taught there for a short while before taking the role of assistant curator for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1941 Pough became the chair of the department of Geology and Mineralogy.

During World War II, he worked with the U.S. government as a mineralogist. In this time, Dr. Pough was the first to describe a greenish yellow phosphate mineral from Brazil. Along with mineralogist Edward P. Henderson, he named it Brazilianite, and published the results in The American Mineralogist in 1945.

After the war, through the 1940s and early 1950s, Pough was back at the American Museum of Natural History. While at the museum, Pough studied X-ray irradiation and its effects on gemstones. On the JCK masthead from 1944, and as contributing editor for Lapidary Journal Magazine from 1945, Pough informed jewelers and gem dealers that some irradiated color-enhanced gems would fade back to their original color after being exposed to sunlight.

He left the American Museum of Natural History in 1952 to become president of Gem Irradiation Laboratories, his own company, which pioneered work in irradiated gems.

It was around this time that the famed Deepdene diamond appeared in the European market, placed in auction at Christie’s as a natural-color 104 ct. fancy yellow diamond. The suspicious color led some people to question whether or not it was natural. Dr. Edward Gübelin at the Gübelin lab determined that the stone was treated—colored by irradiation. Pough had irradiated the large diamond.

Pough had numerous accolades, including a 1972 JCK/Chilton Editorial Achievement Award. He remained on the JCK masthead until 1986. To the end of his life, Pough read JCK and would often critique the work of his successors on the gemstone beat, frequently signing his letters “Your BFAHC”—“Your Best Friend and Harshest Critic.”

“Fred’s principal fame as an author rests on his Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals, first published in 1953,” writes Wendell Wilson, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Mineralogical Record, “and thereafter in numerous subsequent editions, total sales of which have exceeded 1 million copies. Generations of mineral collectors grew up with this book at their side.

“Fred Pough was a virtual legend in mineralogy and mineral collecting, his name and works universally known,” says Wilson. “He remained active, energetic, and feisty in his old age, traveled and lectured widely.”

Julian Gray, curator of the Weinman Mineral Museum in Cartersville, Ga., and mineral section chair of the Georgia Mineral Society, posted this note on the GMS Web site: “He was with his friends and colleagues doing what he loved best until the very end.”

Reminiscing about a meeting with Dr. Pough last year, Gray writes, “I was awed at how humble he was (I apparently missed out on the curmudgeon part of his career) and how genuinely honored he felt as dozens of people last year stopped to tell him how his book had been their first serious mineral reference book. He will be missed, but we are all indebted to him for a great contribution to the field of mineralogy.”