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Gabor Dessau (1907 – 1983)


Gabor Dessau was born in Perugia on 27th June 1907. He graduated in mining engineering in 1929 at the University of Rome and he became professor of ore geology at Politecnico di Torino. In 1938 he worked in Eritrea as chief engineer for the Ispettorato Generale Minerario per l’Africa Orientale Italiana. 

During the Second World War, he was taken prisoner by the British. Thanks to his special skills with ore geology and geophysics he was transferred in India, where he worked for the Mining Department of Jaipur State and for the Geological Survey of India. After the end of the war, he returned to Italy in 1948, working for the Geological Survey of Italy; he taught ore geology at the University of Naples and, since 1957, at University of Pisa.
The life of Gabor Dessau during his permanence in India is the subject of the book entitled “La libertà si chiama Jaipur” written in 2010 by his niece Gabriella Steindler Moscati. He died in Pisa on 16th November 1983.

The Dessau collection

The mineralogy collections of the Museo di Storia Naturale of the Pisa University host the specimens collected by Gabor Dessau during his scientific activity. The collection is formed by 566 specimen; most of them are accompanied by original hand-written labels indicating the sampling site and other informations. Moreover, polished surfaces for metallographic study were prepared for several of these specimens.

The ores of the Dessau collection come from numerous mining sites world-wide. Specimens from Italian ore deposits are the most abundant (408 specimens); more than half of them were collected in Tuscany, and in particular from the Apuan Alps and southern Tuscany. Other important specimens come from Sardinia and Sicily. Recently, new specimen found in the Earth Science Department was recovered, increasing the importance of the Dessau collection; specimens from Sicilian sulphur mines are particularly well-represented.

The scientific production

Gabor Dessau studied ore deposits in Germany, India, Italy, South Africa, and USA. Studying the island of Vulcano, in 1935, he inspired the models for the volcano-sedimentary ore genesis. In this work he highlighted the geothermal resources of the island.

The focus of his scientific production is related to the ore deposits from Sardinia, Sicily, and Tuscany. In Sardinia he studied different kind of ores: Ni-Co, W-Mo, Sb-W, and Pb-Zn ore deposits. Between 1958 and 1962, he studied sulphur deposits from Sicily, being one of the first scientists to apply isotopic geochemistry to ore geology.