Pb-Pb Isochron Dating

After Patterson, 1956

There are a number of useful isotope systems which constitute clocks in the rocks and are useful for geologic dating. But if asked what is the most reliable and precise method for dating the Earth and meteorites, Brent Dalyrymple would point to lead isochrons. He calls the lead method "the hourglass of the solar system". The current approach to plotting Pb-Pb isochrons is referred to as the Holmes-Houtermans method.

The above diagram from Patterson represented a major breakthrough in the use of lead isochrons when it was published in 1956. It presented the analysis of three stony meteorites and two iron meteorites and showed that they fell on the same isochron. In addition, it showed that a sample of modern ocean sediment fell on the same isochron. Besides offering confirmation of the meteorite age that had been approached in many studies, it offered evidence that meteorites and the Earth are closely related and of the same age. Like most modern lead age studies, it used the troilite mineral from the Canyon Diablo meteorite as the standard. The isochron age was reported by Patterson as 4.55 Gy, but that becomes 4.48 Gy with the application of the revised decay constants for the isotopes involved.

Meteorite datingRb/Sr dating of meteorites
Classification of Meteorites


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