The potential to determine the age of rocks using natural radioactive decay was realized soon after the discovery of radioactivity, with the first geological age determination made in 1906 by Ernest Rutherford. In the 1950s, rapid improvements in analytical techniques resulted in more accurate and precise ages. This allowed geologists to begin to quantify Earth’s geological timescale and better understand its evolution.
A laboratory dedicated to age determinations and isotopic studies was established at the Geological Survey of Canada in 1953. Its goal was to further develop the new technologies and apply them to geological mapping of the Canadian landmass and its resources. Initial work focused on the potassium-argon method, with the influential uranium-lead zircon method, among others, developed subsequently.
The laboratory participated in dating the moon rocks from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, as well as the oldest rocks on Earth, the Acasta Gneiss discovered in the Northwest Territories in the 1980s. It has also played a major role in unravelling the four billion years of geological history that shaped the country, and in defining Canada’s mineral and energy resource potential. It continues to evolve with new micro-beam technologies and sharpen its contribution to the research program.
Category: Equipment and Instrumentation