Hubert and Mary Barnes professorship established in Department of Geosciences

Mary Barnes, who worked as a research associate in the Materials Research Laboratory, and Hubert Barnes, distinguished professor emeritus in geosciences.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new endowed professorship in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences honors the legacy of husband-and-wife Penn State researchers, one a distinguished professor emeritus in the department.

The Dr. Hubert Barnes and Dr. Mary Barnes Professorship in Geosciences was funded with a $1 million gift from the Barnes family. Hubert Barnes is a world-renowned geochemist who spent 37 years as a professor at Penn State and remains active in research as a distinguished professor emeritus. Mary Barnes, who died in 2017, worked as a research associate in the Materials Research Laboratory.

“Penn State provided an environment that stimulated productivity throughout our careers,” Hubert Barnes said. “We both believed this endowment is a fitting means of acknowledging this support and to further the work of the extraordinary faculty of the geosciences department. There are reasons that our department is ranked among the foremost of the world, and the evidence of that is our inspired colleagues.”

The endowment will support an outstanding faculty member to further their contributions in teaching, research and public service in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

“An endowed professorship is an enduring legacy,” said Lee Kump, John Leone Dean in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. “It is fitting that this gift comes from Hu and Mary, who are a part of our college’s history. Their generosity will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty to develop geochemistry into the future.”

The Barnes’ gift is the first endowed professorship in geosciences. It joins an early career professorship already established in the department – the Rudy L. Slingerland Early Career Professor of Geosciences.

Hubert Barnes earned his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1950 and his doctorate from Columbia University in 1958. While at MIT, he met his future wife, Mary, who was working as a research assistant in biochemistry. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Swarthmore College in 1948.

The couple married while Hubert Barnes was chief mining geologist for Peru Mining Company of Silver City, New Mexico. Following the completion of his doctorate, he served as a lecturer at Columbia University before winning a research fellowship at the Carnegie Institution Geophysical Lab. They moved to State College in 1960 when Hubert Barnes joined the Penn State faculty. While raising their two young children, Mary Barnes earned her doctorate at Penn State in 1966 and later served as a research associate studying radioactive waste disposal and concrete chemistry.

“It was obvious that Mary should get a Ph.D.,” Hubert Barnes said. “I’m still getting frequent messages asking for more information on research she published soon before her death. She also had continuing loyalty for Penn State. Women of her generation had difficulty obtaining sufficient research support compared to most men, and she really appreciated the assistance Penn State and her mentor, Professor of Chemistry William Steele, provided for her.”

At Penn State, Hubert Barnes embarked on a distinguished career studying the natural processes that produced mineral deposits and ores of metals such as copper, zinc and lead. His research group published papers on the origins of Mississippi Valley type ore deposits that helped make Penn State a leader in that field.

He received much recognition for his work, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Geochemical Society, the Penrose Medal from the Society of Economic Geologists, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Humboldt Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany.  He was named an honorary professor and distinguished visiting fellow by the University of Wales and presented short courses at many institutions across the globe.  

He taught the first aqueous geochemistry course at Penn State and has seen revolutionary advances in geosciences during the course of his career.

Barnes said he believes that this endowment can stimulate the department’s research and teaching concentrating on natural resources and geochemistry for generations of geoscientists to come.

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated October 23, 2021