While working on Murihiku rocks from the Taringatura Hills in Southland for his MSc thesis, Douglas Coombs noticed that calcium-bearing minerals, especially zeolites, progressively changed in composition through the 8,500-metre thick sequence of greywacke and tuff. When published in 1954, it was the first description of this type of mineralogical change when rocks are buried (low grade metamorphism), but the same pattern has subsequently been recognized in many other parts of the world. Coombs and his co-workers set up a classification of low-grade metamorphism that has now been adopted internationally.
From 1956 to 1990 Douglas Coombs was professor of geology at the University of Otago, and he has continued active research in retirement. For many years he represented New Zealand on the committee of the International Mineralogical Association, and the mineral coombsite was named in his honour.
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