What Is Geochemistry?

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Frank Wigglesworth Clarke, who has been labelled as the "Father of Geochemistry," defines geochemistry as all geographical study that involves chemical change. Victor Goldschmidt, known as a pioneer of modern geochemistry, defines geochemistry as the study of the amount and the distribution of the chemical elements in the atmosphere, rocks, soils, minerals and water.

Geochemistry is a broad field. Geochemists try to explain and quantify the mechanisms that control the cycling of elements between the different compartments of the Earth: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere and the lithosphere. Inorganic geochemistry uses thermodynamics and kinetics to explain the relationship between the cycles and the relationships of the elements. Organic geochemistry traces human habitation and other animal and plant activity on Earth by using the chemical indicators of life forms. Exploration geochemistry uses geochemical principles to locate groundwater supplies, mineral fields, ore fields, oil deposits and gas fields.

The geological record, which stores the information regarding the chemical evolution of Earth's components, also serves as an archive. Proper interpretation of analytical results by trained individuals makes geochemistry a powerful tool for solving geological, environmental and economic problems. However, not understanding the potential problems and misinterpreting the data can lead to incorrect conclusions from the raw data.