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R. Vollmer, Self-portrait (2012)


Ronald (Roald) Vollmer comes from a Hamburg family of artists: his father and great-grand-father were painters, his grand-father an architect among whose works are the Trinitatis-Kirche, Berlin-Charlottenburg and the Berlin S-Bahn station Hackischer Markt.


Born 1942, Vollmer grew up in a small village on the Lüneburg Heath. He studied geology in Kiel under Eugen Seibold and in Munich under Georg Fischer. In 1970 Vollmer joined the Isotope Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich. There he undertook a dissertation investigating the Sr and Pb isotope abundances of the Central Italian high-potassium volcanic province (the Italian potassic volcanism had been a traditional area of geochemical investigations in Bern and Zürich ever since the pioneering work of Alfred Rittmann). He received his PhD in 1975 for this work.


His wife being English, Vollmer decided to move to Britain and joined later that year the Isotope Laboratory of the University of Leeds where – apart from a 3-years sojourn at Rhode Island University, U.S.A. – he remained.


Even so the Italian potassic volcanism was an area to which Vollmer came back again and again throughout his scientific career. The regional isotopic trends he had found in Italy inspired a passionate interest in attempting to interpret their origin that never left him: studying the isotope properties of high-potassium volcanic rocks remained central to Vollmer’s field of interest. So when circumstances forced Vollmer to retire from his scientific career in the 1990s, he turned to his other passion: art. Examples of work in that area (under the pseudonym Max) can be seen here.