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Eva Fejer (1927-2011)

Posted by John Jackson on Feb 3, 2011 12:51:54 PM

Eva Fejer, X-ray crystallographer in the Museum Mineralogy Department until her retirement in 1987, sadly passed away on 11 January 2011.

 

Eva’s life was full of incident, trauma and adventure which forged her character: indomitable, yet at the same time kind and loving. Fortunately, she documented her account of her life and of working in the Museum in the current Museum Lives project. Many tributes to her and memories of her can be found on www.mindat.org

 

Eva was born at Budapest in 1927. Her father was a prominent lawyer and the family prosperous but war brought traumatic change. Her father was murdered by the Nazis and Eva was sent first as forced labour for Daimler-Benz and subsequently to Ravensbruck concentration camp. After the war she came to the UK with her mother as a refugee.

 

Eva was appointed as an experimental officer in the Mineralogy Department in 1949 and started work in the chemical laboratories under Max Hey. One of her first projects was to contribute on a solution to the Piltdown Man scandal. She later transferred to X-ray Crystallography where she worked with Williams, Bannister and Claringbull, rapidly becoming a specialist in X-ray powder diffraction and single crystal work.

 

Eva was the lead author in the description and naming of the mineral claringbullite; named after her friend and mentor Sir Frank Claringbull (Director 1968-1976). Other new minerals she helped to describe are atheneite, isomertieite, palladseite, keyite, henryite, sweetite, mattheddleite and ashoverite.

 

She translated several books, including Mineral Museums of Europe and The Studio Handbook of Minerals. She also co-authored a number of other popular books (An Instant Guide to Rocks and Minerals, A Collectors Guide to Minerals and Gemstones, Rocks and Minerals) and scientific papers. Her fluency in a number of languages meant she was always in great demand as a translator and she also organised the Museum's first-aiders.

 

In her retirement she maintained an active life: first working for the Joint Committee on Powder Diffraction Standards; then working as a volunteer driver for Charing Cross  Hospital for a number of years. She travelled widely, went on several cruises, invariably attended the birthday celebrations for her governess Ilse (now 104) in Budapest, went to school reunions in Budapest and also became a lecturer at summer schools for German schoolchildren at the Ravensbruck concentration camp where she and other Holocaust survivors recounted their terrible experiences in the hope that such atrocities are never repeated.

 

She was deeply loved by her friends and her cousins who are spread around the world. She regularly had lunch with friends in the Palaeontology Department, and always came in to the Museum for Mineralogy Department gatherings.

 

This article is taken from MinNews, the newsletter of the NHM Mineralogy Department

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