Crystallography in Canada - Crispin Calvo (1930-1977)  


Abraham Clearfield

Department of Chemistry, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 
Reprinted from CNCC Newsletter No 1 (Canadian National Committee for Crystallography) September 2009

Cris and I were classmates at Rutgers in the chemistry department doctoral program. Cris' project involved the synthesis and structures of polyvanadates and polymolybdates. Although he obtained many crystals, they were too complex to be solved by crystallographic methods of the time (early 1950's). We had no computers and all data were obtained by film methods. His Ph.D. dissertation was on the Crystallography of the Polyvanadates, 1955. I believe that he post-docted at Cornell U. on gas phase electron diffraction. He then was appointed as an Assistant Professor at McMaster U. where he spent his entire career. 


Cris' major contribution was in doing the crystal structures of pyrophosphates and phosphates of transition metals. There were high and low temperature phases and in special cases plagued with disorder and thermal anomalies in the literature associated with these compounds. Cris solved many of their structures and later refined his own and literature data by full matrix least squares methods. Thus, he was able to clear up many anomalies and to explain the luminescence of these compounds. He systematized the field and was able to predict and synthesize new phases. 


Cris and his wife Georgia had five children but unfortunately he contracted Hodgkins' disease. He refused to take the required medication because it removed his ability to think, a condition he could not tolerate. 


Cris was one of the most intelligent individuals it was my privilege to know. He could read J. Willard's Gibbs Thermodynamics in the original as though they were a novel and explain it to you on the spot. In character he was the "salt of the earth." His untimely death was a tragedy for his family, friends, and his beloved crystallography.