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April 14, 2006, Friday


Frederick H. Pough, Writer of Gem Guide, Dies at 99


Frederick H. Pough, a mineralogist and museum curator who wrote a guide to collecting gems and minerals that became an essential tool for budding geologists, died on April 7 in Rochester. He was 99.

The cause was a heart attack, said a grandson, Thomas F. Moore. Dr. Pough (pronounced POE) collapsed while attending a mineral symposium near his home in Pittsford, N.Y.

The book, "A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals" (1953), was written while he was a curator of physical geology and mineralogy at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

Part of the Peterson natural history series, the guide used photographs and plain prose to steer the serious amateur among rocks, gems and crystals and the geological forces that formed them. Five decades after Dr. Pough wrote it, the book remains in print and has sold more than a million copies.

Carl A. Francis, curator of the Mineralogical Museum of Harvard University, which received part of Dr. Pough's gem collection, said the field guide was "accurate and substantial, and covered hundreds of minerals, showing their relative shapes and size in the photographs."

Dr. Francis added: "It was aimed at teenagers as well as adults and identified the specimens that found their way into the hands of many, many people."
As a mineral collector working for the American government in the 1940's, Dr. Pough went to Brazil, where he was first to describe a greenish yellow phosphate mineral.
With Edward P. Henderson, a United States Geological Survey mineralogist who analyzed the find, he named it brazilianite and published the results in a journal, American Mineralogist, in 1945. Other deposits of brazilianite were later uncovered in New Hampshire.

While at the museum, Dr. Pough experimented with X-ray radiation and its brilliant effects on aquamarines and other gemstones. He found that precious and semiprecious gems changed color under radiation, although often only temporarily. He also warned jewelers and gem dealers to be wary of irradiated stones because sunlight could cause enhanced colors to fade.

After leaving the museum in 1953, he became president of Gem Irradiation Laboratories, a company he founded to explore the possibility of selling irradiated stones in the legitimate market.

Frederick Harvey Pough was born in Brooklyn. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and a master's degree from Washington University. In 1935, he earned his doctorate in mineralogy from Harvard.

He joined the natural history museum staff as an assistant curator in 1935. From 1964 to 1967, he was director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
In the 80's and 90's, Dr. Pough worked as a consultant and wrote a monthly column on gems and their formation for Lapidary Journal, a trade magazine for gem cutters and jewelers.

A Harvard researcher named a mineral, Poughite, in his honor in 1968, based on his work in studying and describing similar minerals known as the iron tellurites.
Dr. Pough's first wife, the former Eleanor Hodge, died in 1966. A second marriage ended in divorce. He lived in Reno, Nev., before moving to Pittsford two years ago.
He is survived by a son, F. Harvey Pough, of Pittsford, a biologist at the Rochester Institute of Technology; a daughter, Barbara P. Moore, of Pittsford, a museum conservator; a brother, Harold, of Wynnewood, Pa.; and three grandchildren.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company