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Queen’s Remembers Professor Emeritus Edward Farrar

Edward FarrarThe Queen’s community is remembering Edward (Ed) Farrar, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, who died Sunday Nov. 8 after years of living with vascular dementia.

Dr. Farrar received his B.A. in physics from the University of Toronto in 1959 and a year later earned a master’s in physics (meteorology) from the same institution. After working for three years as meteorologist at the air force base in Goose Bay, Labrador, he returned to the University of Toronto where he earned a Ph.D. in geophysics in 1966. During this period, he researched methods of potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating of rocks in the geochronology laboratory of Professor Derek York.

In 1966, Dr. Farrar joined the Department of Geological Sciences at Queen’s University and established his own geochronology lab. He also served as head of the department from 1981 to 1986.

Dr. Farrar’s teaching and research at Queen’s centered on problems in geophysics, geochronology and geotectonics. His PhD thesis and early work at Queen’s were a major contribution to the field of geochronology (concerned with investigating the age and history of the Earth). His demonstration that the AEI MS-10 mass spectrometer – an inexpensive, simple leak detector – could be re-purposed to do accurate and precise quantitative argon isotope analyses was revolutionary for geochronology and resulted in the proliferation of K-Ar labs worldwide. The work was published in Nature in 1964. The fact that most modern geochronology labs are in geoscience departments, can be traced back to Dr. Farrar's ground-breaking work. 

Dr. Farrar authored and co-authored more than 60 papers in refereed scientific journals, and he supervised and co-supervised more than 30 graduate students.

Dr. Farrar was interred near Cobourg on Thursday, Nov. 12. 

An obituary written by his colleagues, Professors Emeriti John Dixon and Hewart (Herb) Helmstaedt, with contributions by Dr. Doug Archibald, is available on the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering website.