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There are numerous scientific disciplines in Serbia which have had a specific course of development – as a rule, at their beginning such scientists appeared who not only initiated the “start up” of new disciplines, but very quickly developed them during their lifetime and working life. One of such disciplines has been geochemistry, and one of such scientists – Academician Zoran J. Maksimović. In more than half a century geochemistry in Serbia has matured into a discipline which we can be proud of before the world, as it has long ago transcended local borders. Its founder has gained an international renown.

Academician Zoran J. Maksimović was born in Belgrade, on March 18, 1923, by father Jovan and mother Danica (née Panjević). He completed his secondary education in the town of Čačak, graduating in 1941. This very year Serbia was caught by World War II and his further education was interrupted. He began his university studies in Belgrade in 1946, graduating from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Belgrade (B.Sc. in Mineralogy) in 1950. As an excellent student, having the scholarship of the Serbian Academy of Sciences (SAS), he became a research assistant at the Geological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciеnces. That was the beginning of a brilliant scientific carrier, announced two years before, in 1948, when Maksimović, as a student, published the paper: “Comparative Geochemistry of Uranium and Thorium with the General Characteristics of their Deposits in the Earth’s Crust”.

Owing to the scholarship of the British Council, Academician Maksimović spent a certain period of time (1954–1956) at Cambridge (UK), where he worked on his doctoral dissertation Geochemistry of alteration of ultrabasic rocks in Serbia. In 1957, he obtained his Ph.D. degree from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Belgrade. It should be pointed out that it was the first doctoral thesis in the field of geochemistry not only in Serbia but in the then Yugoslavia, too. In the same year, he began his academic career as an assistant professor of geochemistry at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Belgrade; he gradually passed through all teaching positions up to full professor of geochemistry at the Faculty of Mining and Geology in Belgrade. He retired (by law) in 1988.

Academician Zoran Maksimović was the Chairman of the Department of Petrology and Geochemistry at the Faculty of Mining and Geology. He contributed greatly to the education of undergraduate and graduate students in geochemistry, and also held postgraduate courses at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). He participated as an invited lecturer in many national and international meetings, as well as at the universities in the USA, Great Britain, Russia, Poland, Greece, Hungary and Romania.

For his contributions to science, Professor Maksimović was elected to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1974 as a corresponding member and in 1985 as a full member. After the election as an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2001, he presented his inaugural lecture: “Genesis of some Mediterranean karstic bauxites and karstic nickel deposits”, in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest.

Scientific activities

Academician Maksimović spent the early years of his work at the Geological Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences (1950–1957). During this time he acquired considerable experience in field research, studying various geological phenomena, especially in Western Serbia. In the years to come, he performed his field research in other parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia, former Yugoslavia, as well as in Greece, France, Hungary, Jamaica and Libya. On the other hand, he acquired significant laboratory experience at the Geological Institute, and, especially during the work on his Ph.D. thesis, at the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology, University of Cambridge (UK). In 1958, he established the Geochemical Laboratory at the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in Belgrade, which after 1963 became a part of the Department of Mineralogy, Crystallography, Petrology and Geochemistry at the Faculty of Mining and Geology of the University of Belgrade.

The most important scientific activities of Academician Maksimović can be divided into three groups: (a) geochemistry and mineralogy of ultramafic rocks, their products of hydrothermal alteration and weathering, including the lateritic nickel deposits; (b) geochemistry and mineralogy of karst-bauxites and karstic nickel deposits, including karstic processes, and (c) environmental geochemistry including some geomedical aspects. As a result of his very active work in these fields, he published, alone or with coauthors, 326 scientific papers both in national and international journals, including two monographic contributions.

Geochemistry and mineralogy of ultramafic rocks,
their alteration products and deposits

Since the early period of his work at the Geological Institute of SAS, Academician Maksimović has paid great attention to ultramafic rocks, which are very widely spread throughout Serbia. Besides geological relations, distribution and chemistry of these rocks, he studied their weathering and hydrothermal alteration caused by Tertiary magmatism. That has been particularly pointed out in his Ph.D. thesis, which even nowadays represents a rich source of data and an example how to study the alteration of other rocks. He found that the hydrothermal alteration of peridotites is characterized by the formation of chromium-bearing clay minerals in the alteration zones, including chromium-illite, chromium-kaolinite, chromium-dickite, chromium-tosudite, and chromium-halloysite.

Academician Maksimović discovered in the Balkan Peninsula relicts of two weathering crusts on ultramafic rocks of different age: the Lower Cretaceous one, which was mostly destroyed by Albian-Cenomanian transgression, giving rise to the formation of reworked Ni-Fe ores; and the Tertiary one, preserved in some places up to 40 to 60 m in thickness. Fifty years ago, in the Tertiary weathering crust of these rocks, he discovered the first lateritic nickel deposit in the Balkan Peninsula, in Kosovo and Metohija, near Priština. In the weathering profiles he found nickel clay-like minerals from the kerolite-pimelite series, and studied their spatial distribution and genesis. He paid attention to the age of formation of nickel laterites, their mineralogical and chemical composition, including the behaviour of trace elements in the weathering processes. On the basis of this research he described different types of fossil weathering of ultramafic rocks in SE Europe. The research on mineralogy and geochemistry of nickel laterites in the former Yugoslavia and Greece has contributed to Academician Maksimović’s international reputation. His papers on kеrolitе-pimelite and lizardite-nepouite series, which he first managed to define, have been often cited in international scientific literature.

As a result of weathering of ultramafic rocks in the Balkan Peninsula, some large magnesite deposits were formed under the weathering crust. Academician Maksimović used trace element-indicators, mostly mercury, to discriminate magnesite of hydrothermal origin from those formed by weathering. He found that some of our magnesite deposits were formed by hydrothermal processes, but most of them were the result of weathering of ultramafic rocks in Tertiary. The largest magnesite deposits in Europe, in Euboea Island in Greece, contrary to earlier opinions, were not of hydrothermal origin. The results of the geochemical study were proved by his discovery of the relics of the Tertiary weathering crust containing nickel hydrosilicates above the magnesites.

During the study of alteration processes of ultramafic rocks he also studied the chemistry and trace element contents of fresh and partly serpentinized peridotites, including minerals of various ultramafic rock types. On the basis of results obtained, already in his Ph.D. thesis, Academician Maksimović divided these rocks into two major zones in the Dinarides: Harzburgite zone (H), in the Inner Dinarides, and Lherzolite zone (L), in the Central Dinarides. L-Zone contains more Na, K, Ti, V, Cu and Mn, and less Cr, Ni and Co relative to H-Zone. Later results confirmed the existence of these two different ultramafic zones. Based on a great number of electron microprobe analyses of olivine, orthopyroxene, clinopyroxene and spinel from L-Zone and H-Zone, and thermodynamic calculation of the closure temperatures and pressures, he obtained a different thermal and emplacement history of these two ultramafic zones in the Dinarides.

In the reworked Paleozoic weathering crust on ultramafics on Radočelo Mt. (Serbia), he discovered a new mineral phase – reevesite rich in iron, a new member of the hydrotalcite group.

Kaolin deposits in the former Yugoslavia also attracted his attention: he distinguished the deposits of hydrothermal origin from those formed by weathering of granitoid rocks in Tertiary. To solve the problem of kaolinite genesis he used the temperatures of formation of this mineral based on oxygen isotope study.

Geochemistry and mineralogy of karst-bauxites and karstic nickel deposits

Probably the most important field of study of Academician Maksimović was the problem of karst-bauxites and karstic nickel deposits. He considered the genesis of these karstic deposits from a geochemical point of view, introducing for the first time the study of migration per descensum of trace elements in these processes. He found that during the bauxitization in situ of clayey materials, collected in a highly drained karstic environment, most of the trace elements were mobile, including nickel and rare earth elements (REE), and concentrated on the geochemical barrier of the footwall carbonate rocks. These studies enabled the rapid discovery of various authigenic nickel and rare earth minerals in numerous karst-bauxite deposits in Greece and the former Yugoslavia. It should be noted, however, that the first karstic nickel deposits studied by Academician Maksimović were those in the village Ba, in Serbia, for his B.Sc. diploma in 1950, and in the village Takovo in 1951. After intensive and systematic mineralogical and geochemical research, in 1957 he discovered in both localities, a new nickel clay-like mineral named takovite. A great number of publications in this field, important new results and original explanation of the karst-bauxite genesis, brought him a high international reputation.

New minerals of nickel and the rare earth elements are important discoveries, related to karstic deposits. Besides the new mineral, takovite, Academician Maksimović discovered in a bauxite deposit in Greece a new Ni-containing aluminous member of the serpentine group, named brindleyite in honor of American mineralogist Dr. George W. Brindley. The third nickel clay-like mineral, baite, discovered by Academician Maksimović in the karstic nickel deposit in the village Ba, in Serbia, and in the Lokris area in Greece, was reported to the IMA Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names.

In cooperation with Dr. Gy. Pantó, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which has lasted almost 30 years, Academician Maksimović discovered in karst-bauxites five new rare earth (RE) minerals and two new RE varieties: monazite-(Nd) in Greece, associated with the new variety bastnaesite-(La); synchysite-(Nd) in the bauxites of Metohija, in South Serbia: new variety of Nd-goyazite in the bauxites of Vlasenica, in Bosnia; hydroxylbastnaesite-(Nd), the first new mineral of Montenegro, former Yugoslavia, in large deposits of Nikšićka Župa. In the bauxites of the Lokris area in Greece, Dr. Gy. Pantó and Academician Maksimović recently discovered two new RE minerals: hydroxylcarbonate-(Nd) and hydroxylcarbonate-(La). The results of the long-standing research and cooperation with Dr. Gy. Pantó in mineralogy and geochemistry of the REE in karstbauxites and karstic nickel deposits, were published in the monograph Rare Earth Minerals, Mineralogical Society Series 7, London, Chapman & Hall, 1996.

Apart from the contribution to mineralogy and geochemistry of the REE in karstic deposits, Academician Maksimović discovered in the large deposits of Montenegro a high accumulation of hydroxylbastnaesite-(Nd,La), which could be a potential source of the light lanthanides.

Environmental geochemistry

In the past twenty years, Academician Maksimović expanded his research in a new, very topical field – environmental geochemistry. Long years of studies of geochemical processes, especially rock weathering, resulted in the application of knowledge and experiences to the solution of some geomedical problems in Serbia (for example, Balkan nephropathy). He was the first to recognize a serious selenium deficiency in this country, in the stream sediments, soils, crops and in human population. Through a project of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts he organized a team of researchers in this field, which successfully dealt with this problem, fusing the research in environmental geochemistry, biology and medicine. As a result, Academician Maksimović organized three symposia on selenium, two being of international character with the participation of wellknown scientists. The contributions were published in Biological Trace Element Research (1992), in a special publication of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts – Conference on Selenium (1995), and in the Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology and Oncology (1998). Thanks to the pioneer work of Academician Maksimović, significant achievements have been made in this field in Serbia during past twenty years, which is confirmed by the citation rate of papers published in Serbia.

In December 1997, Academician Maksimović organized the Round Table Selenium status in Serbia and the problem of supplementation in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In December 1998, he organized the First Symposium on Magnesium there.

Other activities

Academician Maksimović initiated the establishment of the Geochemical Working Group at the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (1975), and for a long period of time time he was its president. He is now the president of SASA’s Committee for Geochemistry.

He is a member of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain (since 1955), International Association for the Study of Clays (AIPEA), Society of Environmental Geochemistry and Health, and the Serbian Geological Society. He was the first president of the Mineralogical-Petrological Section of this Society. Academician Maksimović is an Honorary Member of the Mineralogical Society of Romania (1997).

Academician Maksimović was a member of the editorial board of Annales géologiques de la péninsule balkanique, Travaux du Comité international pour 1’étude des bauxites, de l’alumine et de l’aluminium (ICSOBA), Vice President of ICSOBA, and a board member of the Spectrochemical Section of the Serbian Chemical Society.

For his research achievements, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Geological School and Science in Serbia, he received the Yugoslav Order of Labour with golden wreath (1980), and the Plaquette for the development of science from the Faculty of Mining and Geology. On the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Serbian Geological Society (1991), Academician Maksimović received the plaquette awarded by the Society for scientific achievements. In 2006, he received another Charter from the Serbian Geological Society for his contribution to Society’s affirmation and development of geological sciences in Serbia.

In 1998, on the occasion of his 75th birthday, Rajka Radoičić, distuinguished Serbian geologist, devoted to him newly discovered fossil species: Zittelinae maksimovici.

Activities in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

  • Secretary of the Department for mathematics, physics and Earth sciences since February 26, 1999.
  • Member of the Presidency
  • Member of the Publishing Committee
  • Member of the Administrative Committee of the Fund for Scientific Research

Academician Zoran Ј. Maksimović is the head of the following committees and projects:

  • Committee for Geochemistry
    President: Academician Zoran Maksimović Members: Corresponding Member Vidojko Jović, secretary; Academician Stevan Karamata, Academician Dragomir Vitorović, Academician Marko Ercegovac, Prof. Dr. Petar Pfendt, Prof. Dr. Mihovil Logar, Prof. Dr. Vesna Poharc-Logar, Prof. Dr. Ljubomir Cvetković, Prof. Dr. Branimir Jovančićević, Prof. Dr. Dejan Prelević and M.Sc. Mihailo Ršumović.
    Within the framework of the project “Geochemistry”, the following topics have been the subject of research:
    • The geochemistry of the upper mantle and the igneous rocks of the Earth’s crust;
    • Geochemistry of the rock alteration;
    • Mineralogy.
  • Interdepartmental Committee: Deficiency of selenium and magnesium in Serbia
    President: Academician Zoran Maksimović) Project: Deficiency of selenium and magnesium in Serbia – Coordinator: Academician Zoran Maksimović Collaborators: Academicians Vojislav Petrović, Vladimir Kanjuh and Miroslav Gašić, Corresponding Member Vidojko Jović (secretary), Prof. Dr. Tomislav Jovanović, Dr. Ivana Đujić, Prof. Dr. Mihailo Spasić, Dr. Zorica S. Saičić, Dr. Biljana Buzadžić, Dr. Bato Korać, Dr. Duško Blagojević, Dr. Aleksandra Nikolić, Dr. Slađan Pavlović, M.Sc. Mihailo Ršumović, M.Sc. Slavica Borković, Tijana B. Kovačević and Marija Savić.

Academician Zoran Maksimović is a member of the Committee for Geodynamics; he was a member of the following committees: Committee “Man and Environment”; Committee for Kopaonik Mountain; Committee for Natural History Museum; Committee for the study of urinary tract.


After more than half a century of successful and fruitful scientific activity, Academician Maksimović has gained a great reputation both in international and national circles. The discovery of ten new minerals and six varieties of minerals, high citation rate in international journals and the recognition as an authority in some fields of geochemistry and mineralogy are the most important results of his scientific work. Apart from that, Academician Maksimović, covering a wide scope of geochemical investigations, was the founder of the modern geochemical school at the University of Belgrade.



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Two New Zittelinae (Dasycladales) From Paleocene of Slovenia / Radoičić R. // Bulletin Academie serbe des sciences et des arts. Classe des sciences mathematiques et naturelles, Sciences naturelles. ISSN 0352–5740. 39 (1999) 55–60.

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