Reflecting on the Colonial Legacy of Geoscience in Africa

Although carbonatites are now known worldwide, much of the early work to identify them was done in Africa, particularly around Oldoinyo Lengai (Tanzania) led by the late John Barry Dawson (1932–2013). Barry was a professor at the University of Edinburgh (UK) when one of us (KG) was there during the 1990s doing a PhD on alkaline igneous rocks and carbonatites; his interest and enthusiasm for the subject was infectious. Barry’s initial work on Oldoinyo Lengai, and his recognition of it as a carbonatite volcano, was done when he was a geologist for the Geological Survey of Tanganyika, around the time of Tanzanian independence. This was a time when colonial attitudes still strongly governed the way geological work was done in Africa, and the early papers on carbonatites abound with names of former colonies such as Rhodesia, Nyasaland, and South-West Africa.

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