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January-February 2017

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Who's Who in Mineral Names: John Francis Rakovan (b. 1964)

Rakovanite, Na3{H3[V10O28]}·15H2O, was found in specimens from the Sunday mine and the West Sunday mine, Slick Rock district, San Miguel County, Colorado; it is named in honor of Dr. John F. Rakovan, professor of mineralogy and geochemistry at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Rakovanite is one of numerous new Colorado Plateau Uravan mineral belt minerals discovered by the well-known collector Joe Marty, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and characterized by a group of scientists led by Anthony R. Kampf of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Kampf et al. 2011). Rakovanite is the natural analog of the synthetic phase described in detail by Duraisamy, Ramaan, and Vittal (2000). The mineral is biaxial positive; crystals are up to 1 mm in maximum dimension and vary in habit from blocky to prismatic on [100], often exhibiting steps and/or striations parallel to [100].

Rakovanite is rare; the phase occurs as crystalline crusts on sandstone fractures in the walls of the aforementioned mines. The mineral forms from the oxidation of montroseite-corvusite along with the numerous other decavanadate-bearing minerals discovered to date in the Colorado Plateau deposits (those minerals are listed in Kampf et al. [2014] and include the normal decavanadates huemulite, hughesite, hummerite, kokinosite, lasalite, magnesiopascoite, pascoite, postite, schindlerite, and wernerbaurite; the protonated decavanadates gunterite and rakovanite; and the mixed-valence decavanadates nashite and bluestreakite). The mineral is monoclinic, space group P21/n, with a = 12.0248(17), b = 17.121(3), c = 18.140(3) Å, and β = 106.242(8)°. The atomic arrangement of rakovanite was solved and refined. The structure is dominated by the H3(V5+10O28)3− decavanadate group that imparts the beautiful orange color of rakovanite. The triply-protonated decavanadate groups are linked by the interstitial complexes, (Na3·15H2O), the contents of which balance the −3 charges of the decavanadate polyanion with a NaO4(H2O)2 group, a Na2(H2O)10 dimer, and three H2O molecules that do not bond to the interstitial cations.

John F. Rakovan was born in Buffalo, New York, where at the time his father was selling Lawrence Welk and Pat Boone albums for DOT Records. From his earliest days, Rakovan was fascinated with minerals; that fascination is chronicled in a delightful children's book written by his wife, Monica Rakovan, titled A Quest for Shiny Purple Crystals: Johnny and Max's Rock Hunting Adventure, which describes the relationship he had as a child with his lifelong friend and mineral-collecting mentor, Sal Avella, and details their discovery of a sceptered-amethyst deposit in Hopkinton, Rhode Island.

Rakovan majored in geology as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, graduating in 1988; while there he worked in Jim Kirkpatrick's laboratory, synthesizing ammonium-bearing minerals. He continued his education at the University of Illinois–Chicago (MS 1990), working on layer silicate structures with Steve Guggenheim, and he completed his PhD at Stony Brook in 1996, working with Rich Reeder on the role of crystal surface structure on trace-element incorporation in fluorapatite. After a postdoctoral fellowship with Mike Hochella at Virginia Tech, Rakovan began his teaching and research career at Miami University in 1998. He has risen through the academic ranks, being named professor of geology and environmental Earth science in 2011.

Rakovan's research interests are varied, as evidenced by the topics of his two books and some seventy research papers and book chapters. He is one of those rare scientists who has mastered a large array of scientific instrumentation in his research, and he brings instrumentation that ranges from synchrotrons to the atomic force microscope to bear on geologic questions that are largely mineralogical, but also include environmental and economic geology as well. One area of particular interest to him in his research is mineral surfaces. Much of his work has focused on the structure and crystal chemistry of apatite.

There are few, if any, mineral scientists who bridge the scientific research community/mineral collecting community as successfully as Rakovan. A lifelong collector, he is an annual fixture at the Mineralogical Society of America booth at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®, and he seemingly knows everyone at the show and their particular collecting interest. He has served as an associate editor for the American Mineralogist and an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals since 2001; the two editorships illustrate the breadth of Rakovan's interests and communities.

Rakovan is a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America and a member of the Geochemical Society and the Clay Mineral Society. In 2013 he won Best Article awards for an article he coauthored titled “Color and Luminescence in Apatite,” published in Lithographie's Apatite: The Great Pretender, and also for an article he coauthored titled “Fluorite in Mississippi Valley–Type Deposits,” published in Rocks & Minerals. In 1999 he received the Educational Foundation Award from the Cincinnati Mineral Society. In 2011, he was a Fulbright Research Fellow and Visiting Professor at AGH University of Science and Technology, Krakow, Poland, and in 2005 he was a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan.

Rakovan lives in Oxford Township, Ohio, with his wife, who is also a geological scientist. In addition to mineral collecting, he enjoys mountain biking, backpacking, mountain climbing, and Japanese art and culture.


Duraisamy, T., A. Ramanan, and J. J. Vittal. 2000. Novel self-assembled decavanadate clusters forming 1D molecular chains and 2D molecular arrays: [HMTA-H···H2O][HMTA-CH2OH][H3V10O28{Na(H2O)4}]·4H2O and [Na2(H2O)10][H3V10O28{Na(H2O)2}]·3H2O. Crystal Engineering 3:237–50.

Kampf, A. R., J. M. Hughes, J. Marty, M. E. Gunter, and B. Nash. 2011. Rakovanite, Na3{H3[V10O28]}·15H2O, a new pascoite family mineral with a protonated decavanadate polyanion: Crystal structure and descriptive mineralogy. Canadian Mineralogist 49:889–98.

Kampf, A. R., J. M. Hughes, J. Marty, B. P. Nash, Y.-S. Chen, and I. M. Steele. 2014. Bluestreakite, K4Mg2(V24+V85+O28)·14H2O, a new mixed-valence decavanadate mineral from the Bluestreak mine, Montrose County, Colorado: Crystal structure and descriptive mineralogy. Canadian Mineralogist 52:1007–18.

Dr. John M. Hughes is a professor of geology at the University of Vermont and a former colleague of John Rakovan's at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Dr. Anthony R. Kampf, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, is curator emeritus at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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