Bruce Cairncross was born August 13, 1953 in Standerton, Mpumalanga, South Africa, the son of Janet Duchart McGregor and William Bruce Cairncross, a bookkeeper. He had an interest in rocks and minerals at an early age, encouraged by his parents who were both interested in natural history. He spent his grade-school years in the rural setting of Standerton, often collecting agates along the Vaal River. After graduating from Standerton Primary and Nigel English Medium School, he served a stint in the military followed by a year as an accounting clerk. He went on to earn a B.Sc. in Geology from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1976, then entered the Master's Degree program.
A vacation job with a mineral exploration company in Namibia in 1975 reawakened his interest in mineralogy, and on weekend trips to Windhoek he became acquainted with mineral dealer Sid Pieters (q.v.) and purchased his first Tsumeb specimens. A fellow student introduced him to The Mineralogical Record in 1977, adding fuel to the fire.
Graduating with his M.S. degree in 1979, Bruce then took a position as geologist for Rand Mines in Johannesburg. In 1981 he joined the Geology Department at the University of Witwatersrand, and completed his PhD work on coal sedimentology in 1986. Two years of post-doctoral work were followed by an appointment as a senior lecturer at Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg) in 1989. He is currently Professor of Geology at the University of Johannesburg.
Bruce has a personal collection of 8,100 catalogued mineral specimens from southern African localities. Specimens from Tsumeb and the Kalahari Manganese Field form the core of his collection, supplemented by specimens from the Erongo Mountains, Onganja, Karibib, Messina, Okiep, the Witwatersrand goldfields, the Goboboseb Mountains, and other localities in the region.
Bruce has personally visited many of the more important mineral localities in South Africa and Namibia, has written 10 books and 178 professional and “popular” articles, and has presented 126 public lectures on mineral and gemstone topics (including talks at the Tucson Show and the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium), as well as authoring a large number of proceedings abstracts and technical reports. He has supervised a total of 14 Masters and nine Doctoral students. His 2006 Mineralogical Record article (with co-author Uli Bahmann) on the Erongo Mountains won the Friends of Mineralogy's “Best Article of the Year” Award. He serves on the editorial boards of The Mineralogical Record and Rocks & Minerals. He is a Life Fellow of the Geological Society of South Africa, a past Vice President of the International Association of Sedimentologists, and past Chairman of the African Geological Museum in Johannesburg. In 2009 he was honored by the Geological Society of South Africa with their Presidential Award for services rendered to the Johannesburg Geological Museum and South African mineral heritage, and in 2019 received the Draper Memorial Medal from the same learned society. This is the highest scientific award of the Society for “career-long exceptional contributions to geological science, with particular reference to the advancement of South African geology.”
In his spare time Bruce plays the guitar (acoustic and electric), plays golf and squash, and is a Life Member of the South African Guide Dogs Association. He and his wife Theresa have one daughter, Charna.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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A label from 2000