June 26, 2020
Richard "Dick" Norman Pugh (1940-2020) in Morocco in 2014 (image credit: Christine Floss, 2014).
Dick in 2003 helped establish the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University together with myself and Dr. Melinda Hutson, helped establish an endowment for meteorite curation at the university for a collection that now numbers over 1300 different meteorites, received the Service Award from the Society in 2011 for outreach and informal education efforts, and contributed to the recognition of seven new meteorite finds in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas and one new fall from Cambodia (Trapeang Ronoas), He was active in informal education right through last year when his health began to deteriorate. Dick was in many ways the heart of the Cascadia Lab. His enthusiasm for meteorites was infectious; his world both that of the researcher and teachable layperson. He will be missed, but memories of him will live on and inspire.
June 09, 2020
MetSoc position on Discrimination and Racial Bias
The following message has been approved by the Council of the MetSoc:
Dear Meteoritical Society Members,
We have been watching with the rest of the world the unfolding of recent events in the United States and the resulting turmoil. This brings home to us yet again that we have a ways to go before we achieve the just and equitable world that we all aspire to. If unacknowledged and unchecked, discrimination and injustice can enter any organization or community – and can destroy the very foundations upon which we are building our future.
We are a small society, but our membership is diverse and spans the globe. As an international scientific society, and per our position statement on inclusiveness (https://meteoritical.org/society/governance/position-statement), we are committed to a diverse and inclusive community that promotes the well being of all its members. We realize that change comes with both small and bold steps in the right direction. As an example, we have asked our Endowment Committee to proactively consider support of initiatives and programs that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community. We affirm that discrimination and injustice have no place at the Meteoritical Society, in science, or in society as a whole. I am confident in our ability to be a force for science, a force for good, and for positive change in society.
It is our hope that we come together as colleagues and friends to support one another and to support others in our communities beyond our Society. Science, scientists, and science advocates are going to be critical to ensuring we successfully navigate these challenging times together.
President, The Meteoritical Society
May 14, 2020William A. (Bill) Cassidy
William A. (Bill) Cassidy, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science of the University of Pittsburgh, passed away quietly in his home in Monroeville, PA on March 25, 2020, at the age of 92. Bill leaves behind a deep legacy of contributions to the fields of impact crater studies and meteoritics.
While pursuing a BS in Geology at the University of New Mexico in the early 50's, Bill was made aware of Campo del Cielo and the lost Meson de Fierro iron of Argentina during a class taught by Lincoln LaPaz. A Fullbright Scholarship in Australia and a PhD from Penn State University followed, leading to a Research Scientist position at Lamont-Doherty Observatory, from where Bill would mount the first of many expeditions to the Campo del Cielo crater field. Bill's studies of the site proved of historic importance- relatively young (4000 years old), the site consists of over two dozen individual craters, most small enough to be fully excavated to reveal their original geometry and impactor trajectories. Meteorites were recovered from most of these craters, providing an early indisputable link between these two planetary phenomena. Bill's research on the Campo del Cielo site continued into his eighties, and he was loved throughout the region for his consistent efforts to include Argentine scientists, technicians, artists and laypeople in the work. Bill was involved in other seminal crater studies, including investigations of the Aouelloul and Tenoumer craters in Mauritania and the Monturaqui impact site in Chile. He also conducted pioneering research on Australasian microtektites (especially the very interesting and still not much studied “bottle green” variety), Muong Nong-type tektites, and lunar samples.
Another enduring part of Bill Cassidy's legacy is as founder of the US's Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. Bill was one of the first outside of Japan to recognize that nine meteorites recovered in 1969 from the Yamato Mountains of Antarctica were the vanguard of a huge number of specimens. He persistently submitted proposals to the US Antarctic Research Program until finally funded for the 1976-77 field season, the first of several conducted jointly with Japanese collaborators. Since that time the ANSMET program has operated without interruption, sending field parties to Antarctica annually and recovering over 24,000 meteorite specimens. These include several paradigm-shifting specimens, such as EET 79001 (the first meteorite determined to be Martian in origin), ALH 81005 (the first Lunar meteorite), and many samples from rare, scientifically valuable and previously unknown classifications. The inherent altruism of the US Antarctic meteorite program, which provides samples of all recovered specimens to scientists from around the world, is a direct result of Bill's decision to give up privileged access to the meteorites in favor of a program (partnering with NASA and the Smithsonian Institution) that allows other scientists to make their own discoveries. The results have been extraordinary- a program that has lasted for generations, whose long-term impact on science easily rivals that of Apollo. Ultimately Bill led 14 ANSMET expeditions, the last in 1994. He returned to Antarctica again in the late nineties as a part of a NASA-funded Carnegie-Mellon University project to develop robotic meteorite search technologies.
Multiple honors have been bestowed upon Bill in recognition of his contributions to planetary science. He was awarded the Barringer Medal of the Meteoritical Society in 1995 for his lifelong work on impact craters and their debris. Cassidyite (Ca2Ni(PO4)2 · 2H2O) is a rare mineral from Wolf Creek Crater (found in cracks and cavities in weathered meteorites). Bill was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal in 1977, and the Cassidy Glacier, a tributary of the Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica places his legacy firmly on the map. Asteroid 3382 Cassidy places his name in the heavens. In 2015 a hall of the Parque Campo del CieloMuseum was named in his honor.
Bill will be long remembered for his dry sense of humor, his humility, and his generosity. His legacy extends far beyond the craters he explored and the tens of thousands of meteorites his projects recovered - Hundreds of scientists forged bonds of friendship, respect, and trust as a direct result of Bill's efforts during six decades of field work, both in Antarctica and elsewhere, learning to put aside personal gains or comfort in the pursuit of science.Ralph P Harvey, John W. Schutt, Case Western Reserve University and Christian Koeberl, University of Vienna
April 16, 2020
Pellas-Ryder Award for 2020 is to Sabina D. Raducan (Imperial College, UK)
Sabina D. Raducan, currently a PhD student in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College, London, is awarded the 2020 Pellas-Ryder Award for her paper titled “The role of asteroid strength, porosity and internal friction in impact momentum transfer” published in Icarus in 2019. Sabina has been part of the NASA Double Asteroid Redirection Program (DART) investigation team that examines the use of an impactor spacecraft for planetary defense against potential threats posed by Earth-crossing asteroids. Supervised by Gareth Collins, she applied the iSALE shock physics code to model the effect of asteroid properties (cohesion, porosity, internal fraction) on ejecta momentum distribution and to calculate the resulting deflection induced by the impactor. Sabina’s important contributions with this study involved modifying the iSALE code to track high-speed, early ejecta in a computationally efficient manner with the model and modifying ejecta scaling laws. Her work will be essential in interpreting the results of the DART mission and more generally in developing planetary defenses against asteroidal threats.
The Pellas-Ryder award is jointly sponsored by The Meteoritical Society and the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America.
March 01, 2020Bruce Bohor (2011) at the Greenwich meeting after receiving the Barringer Award.
Bruce Forbes Bohor, the 2011 Barringer Medalist of the Meteoritical Society (Glass, 2011), passed away at his home in Green Valley, Arizona, on November 17, 2019. Bruce is best known in our community for his discovery of shocked quartz in layers marking the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T, now called the Cretaceous-Paleogene, K-Pg) boundary in the central United States in the early 1980s, following the famous paper by Alvarez and co-authors in Science in 1980, in which they report geochemical evidence for an asteroid impact from K-Pg layers in Italy. The so-called asteroid impact hypothesis to explain the mass extinction at the K-Pg boundary had created quite a controversy in the early 1980s. Bruce Bohor, working for the U.S. Geological Survey, had previously studied tonsteins (altered volcanic ash beds) in the Central U.S. and even though he was previously not involved in impact cratering or extinction studies, he wanted to test the Alvarez hypothesis against the competing volcanic theory. Thus he began to investigate the mineralogy of the various K-Pg clay layers in the area, leading to his important 1984 Science paper. In this publication, Bruce and colleagues were the first to report the presence of shock-metamorphosed quartz grains in samples from the K-Pg clay layer.
The 1984 paper by Bohor and colleagues caused quite some interest in both the mass extinction and impact/planetary (and mineralogy, petrography) communities, with the latter immediately accepting this as convincing evidence that there was a large impact event at the end of the Cretaceous, whereas the former, in their distaste for extraterrestrial explanations, now tried to discredit decades of shock metamorphic studies by claiming that other (internal) geological processes, such as volcanism, can also create shock lamellae. Bruce wouldn’t have any of this. He went on to demonstrate the presence of trace amounts of the high-pressure quartz polymorph stishovite in the K-Pg layer, and, in a series of subsequent papers, Bruce and colleagues continued to describe shocked mineral grains (quartz, feldspar, chromite, and zircon) and other evidence of an impact in K-Pg layers from many locations around the globe. The global distribution was demonstrated in 1987 in another Science paper; further work demonstrated that the geographic variation in the maximum size of shocked quartz grains and the ratio between shocked and unshocked quartz grains suggested that the source crater is on or close to the North American plate, helping to narrow down possible locations of the source crater (which ultimately resulted in the discovery of the Chicxulub impact structure). In addition, the 1987 paper contained data that indicated that the impact was into continental crust rather than oceanic crust as previously proposed, and they that the geochemical evidence for a basaltic target rock was rather the result of a vaporized mafic chondritic projectile forming a major component of the layer, especially at the more distal sites.
Further important work, starting in the early 1990s, documented textures in shocked zircon representing different degrees of shock metamorphism. This set the stage for using zircon as an impact indicator, and, in addition, showed that the degree of resetting of the U-Pb isotopic system correlates with the degree of shock metamorphism exhibited by the zircons. For his zircon studies, Bruce developed methods for etching zircons to reveal shock textures ⁄ features that are still used in such investigations. Further work concerned the distinction between the fireball and the fallout layers, or detailed studies of K-Pg boundary impact spherules, and where he was able, with his background in clay mineralogy, to provide a better understanding of the post-impact environment and the alteration of impact glasses
For his exceptional achievements in the study of impact processes, he was awarded the Barringer Medal at the Meteoritical Society meeting in Greenwich, UK, in 2011, among other awards and recognitions. After his retirement from the U.S. Geological Survey in 1995, he continued as an emeritus and volunteer at the USGS; during this time he returned to earlier studies of minerals in both ancient and present day Mayan potters in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. He authored or coauthored more than 100 technical publications over his research career. Because of health issues, Bruce discontinued his active research and moved to Green Valley, Arizona in 2010. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Leah. Bruce had a very dry but acute sense of humor and being with him always was an experience. We will miss him.
University of Vienna & Natural History Museum Vienna,
February 13, 2020
The meteoritical community lost a remarkable scientist, mentor, colleague and friend with the passing of Edward J. Olsen on January 30, 2020 at his home in Madison, Wisconsin. Ed is survived by his wife of 38 years, Lorain Olsen, his daughters Andrea Southwood and Ericka Olsen and his grandson Jacob Taggart.
Ed spent most of his career, from 1960 – 1991, as Curator of Mineralogy and Meteorites at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Ed brought to his curatorship the scientific insights of a hard rock field geologist and his long collaborative association with the University of Chicago and the faculty of the Department of Geophysical Sciences there. Importantly, for meteoriticists around the world, he opened up the collection with a spirit of generosity that prompted a “yes” to every legitimate sample request. He recalled turning down less than half a dozen requests over his 31 year tenure as curator.
When Ed started at the Field Museum the nearby University of Chicago was a center of meteorite research, hastening his immersion into meteoritics. Bob Clayton and Ed Anders and their grad students and post docs were a stimulating influence. The arrival of Ian Steele, Larry Grossman, Ian Hutcheon and Andy Davis enhanced the collaborations. He also had a long association with Louis Fuchs at nearby Argonne National Laboratory. Ed and Lou published a number of notable papers, especially the detailed monograph on the newly fallen Murchison carbonaceous chondrite after Ed had managed to obtain the bulk of the Murchison fall for the Field Museum collection.
Ed enjoyed most of all exploring meteorite specimens for new minerals or structures overlooked by previous investigators. He had a good eye for the unusual, the advantage of a large collection available to him and could take large specimens, especially polished slabs, and pore over them by the hour looking for the unusual.
Ed achieved many firsts in his research career. He was the first to find phosphate minerals in iron meteorites. He was the first to find an amphibole group mineral in any meteorite. He, with colleagues, described several new minerals from meteorites: brianite, panethite, buchwaldite, galileiite, and krinovite, an unusual hybrid silicate composition. He was the first to predict that anorthosite and titaniferous pyroxene gabbros were major rock types on the lunar surface, before the return of the first collection of lunar specimens by Apollo 11. He was the first to find C3O xenoliths in a C1 meteorite. He was the first to find an inclusion of a silicate lithology within a IIIA iron meteorite (heretofore silicates had been found in types I, II and IV irons, but IIIAs were considered the homes only of phosphate and chromite inclusions). He was the first to find that some carbonaceous chondrite metal was enriched in chromium and phosphorus, or in silicon. The Cr and Si contents were found to be consistent with nebular condensation.
Ed was happy to have been part of the first joint US-Japan expedition to Antarctica to search for meteorites together with Bill Cassidy and Keizo Yanai. As Bill Cassidy noted, if no meteorites were recovered that first season, that would have been the end of the US effort there, because the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic branch was dominated by biologists who did not think much of spending money and aircraft support for such a project. Luckily, they struck it rich and the program continued. This led to Ed’s invitation by Blythe Robertson of the Geological Survey of Canada a few years later to be part of the first expedition to the Canadian arctic to search for meteorites on the ice caps of Devon Island and Ellesmere Island.
Ed was born and raised in Chicago and all of his schooling was completed within the southside neighborhood of Hyde Park. After graduating from Hyde Park High School, toward the end of WWII, he was drafted into the US Army. His service yielded the benefits of the GI Bill, enabling him to attend the University of Chicago and earn an undergraduate degree in Geology.
Ed began his career as a field geologist, mapping upper Cretaceous sediments and lower Tertiary alkaline volcanic in the Bearpaw Mountains of north central Montana with the USGS. He spent the better part of a decade mapping Precambrian back basin metasediments and metavolcanics in the Labrador Trough in northeastern Canada, working first for the Geological Survey of Canada and then with the Canadian Johns-Manville Co, Ltd. Also with Johns-Manville he did field mapping of peridotites and associated metagabbros along the north coast of Newfoundland, and mapped the exotic rocks called roddingites, that occur in the serpentinized peridotites of the Eastern Townships of Quebec (and all the way down the Appalachian orogenic belt, wherever serpentized periditites occur).
During this decade of field work he completed his PhD in Geology at the University of Chicago. His thesis provided the basis for what he considered one of his best papers, a set of thermodynamic calculations that permitted the determination of the specific temperature and partial water pressure of serpentinization. This involved the reduction of the degrees of freedom in the calculations by considering the presence of all the phases present in the hydrothermally altered rocks, including metal alloys.
In addition to meteoritics, he formed a long and pleasant association with Arnold Friedman of the Chemistry Division at Argonne National Laboratory to study the chemistry of early New World copper-based artifacts (esp. Inca and Moche). This work led to a scheme whereby one could assign a probability to the source of the copper ore used to create primitive implements: a metal source, or an oxidized (oxide, carbonate, sulfate) source.
Finally, following the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction hypothesis, Ed became allied with George McGhee, a paleontologist at Rutgers University and an authority on the major extinction that took place within the upper Devonian, the Frasnian-Fammenian extinction. They worked together for several years with Carl Orth of Los Alamos National Laboratory to see if an iridium event marked this extinction horizon. After a couple of false reports by other groups, it became clear that there was no geochemical evidence that this extinction was caused by a single impact.
For many years Ed was associated with Prof. Harry Nelson (astronomy and mathematics) of Augustana College, Rock island, Illinois, where Ed lectured frequently and was part of an Augustana Space Week Symposium with Neil Armstrong. For services rendered to Augustana, Ed was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 1978.
After retirement from the Field Museum in 1991, Ed continued research for another decade as an adjunct faculty member in Geophysical Sciences Department at the University of Chicago. During these years he also acted as a consultant for an exhibit design company for earth science and planetarium exhibits in museums in several U.S. cities.
Ed enjoyed his career and the personal friendships he formed with many colleagues, especially Robert Hutchison, Ian Steele, Louis Fuchs, Toshiko Mayeda, Mike Lipschutz, Ian Hutcheon, Ted Bunch, and Kurt Frederickson. Near the end of his working career he learned from a colleague that the IAU had named an asteroid after him, 4966EDOLSEN; he greeted the news initially with sincere disbelief.
Friends and colleagues alike will remember Ed for his exuberant enthusiasm over a wide arena of interests in history, literature, languages, music and science. He was a man of immense good humor who could discuss most any subject with erudition and wit. He canoed the boundary waters of Canada, appeared on the stage of the Lyric Opera of Chicago as a supernumerary, and was the only person to have a poem he wrote (a cosmic excursion into the world of dubious definitions of the word “chondrule”) published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta!
Ed had a deep appreciation for the natural world and spent many happy years in retirement with Lorain at their home in the woods of Wisconsin, observing the abundant wildlife there. He lived a full life of scientific contributions, lively engagements with friends and colleagues, and disparate and deep interests. He will be missed.
October 14, 2019
Prof. Dr. Ahmed El-Goresy (photo: Bayerisches Geoinstitut)
Ahmed El Goresy died at his home in Heidelberg on October 3, 2019, at the age of 85. Ahmed El Goresy was a highly regarded mineralogist with a worldwide reputation. His research focused on minerals and mineral assemblages of extraterrestrial samples. With his major tool, reflected light microscopy, he studied meteorite samples from asteroids, Moon, and Mars, and lunar rocks and terrestrial impactites. He was a pioneer in complementing his microscopic findings by using the scanning electron microscopy, the electron microprobe and later the ion probe and Raman spectroscopy. He made numerous discoveries of shock induced high pressure phases in meteorites and samples from terrestrial impact craters, he detected unusual mineral assemblages in a variety of meteorite types and studied their chemistry and isotopic composition. With his work he significantly contributed to a better understanding of cosmochemical processes in the early solar system.
Ahmed El Goresy obtained his B.Sc. in 1955 in Mineralogy and Petrology at the University of Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt. In 1961 he received his PhD for work on ore deposits by using ore microscopy. His supervisor was the famous pioneer of ore microscopy Paul Ramdohr at the University of Heidelberg. Ahmed El Goresy was Ramdohr’s last and best student. In 1961, he briefly returned to Egypt taking a research position in Cairo. In 1963, he became research scientist at the Max-Planck Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg. He then spent some months as guest scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and at Harvard University before taking a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. After his return to Germany and became senior scientist at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg and later Professor at the Universität Heidelberg. In 1998 he officially retired from his position in Heidelberg and moved to the cosmochemistry department of the Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie in Mainz. After closure of the cosmochemistry department in 2005 Ahmed El Goresy moved to the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth, where he stayed active until August 2017.
During some 20 years Ahmed El Goresy worked in close cooperation with Paul Ramdohr at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg. Paul Ramdohr, the world-leading scientist in opaque mineralogy, began his studies on meteorites only after he had retired from university in 1958 and he stopped doing science only a few months before he died in 1985. Ramdohr shared his immense knowledge of opaque minerals and his special skills in reflected light microscopy with Ahmed El Goresy, his talented student, surpassing his master at times. In 1969 Paul Ramdohr became principal investigator (PI) of NASA’s lunar sample analysis program. His focus was on the opaque mineralogy of lunar rocks. Ahmed El Goresy was his co-investigator, who eventually took over as PI. El Goresy and Ramdohr made fundamental contributions to the opaque mineralogy and phase assemblages of lunar mare basalts as well as highland rocks. They estimated temperature and oxygen fugacity during crystallization of lunar mare basalts.
In the meteorite community Ahmed El Goresy is particularly well known for his thorough studies of opaque assemblages and spinel morphologies in Ca, Al-rich inclusions of the Allende meteorite and other carbonaceous chondrites. Some of the mineral assemblages rich in refractory metals seemed so unusual to him that he thought they were formed outside our solar system and he invented the term ‘Fremdling’ (foreigner) which still is often used, although stable isotope studies do not support a non-solar system origin for these objects.
In subsequent studies Ahmed El Goresy discovered that the unusual Acapulco meteorite contains a menagerie of graphite morphologies each with different carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition. The absence of isotopic homogenization in an otherwise well equilibrated meteorite is remarkable. This work is typical of Ahmed El Goresy’s approach. Detailed petrographic observations are combined with ion-probe isotope analyses, which requires close cooperation with isotope researchers. Ahmed El Goresy had the ability to assemble a team of researchers to attack a problem. When he needed a new tool to solve a problem, he would approach the best and most experienced researchers in the field for collaboration.
From about 1995 on Ahmed El Goresy intensified his studies of shock effects in chondrites, Martian meteorites and samples from terrestrial impact craters. He and his coworkers discovered new shock-induced mineral phases including post-stishovite polymorphs (seifertite), high pressure aluminium-silicate phases (lingunite), akaogiite (high pressure polymorph of TiO2), and a polymorph of graphite. El Goresy and his coworker also observed solid-state transformations of olivine to wadsleyite and ringwoodite, decomposition of olivine, growth of wadsleyite, ringwoodite, and majorite from melts during shock events. The study of high pressure polymorphs, their textural occurrence and relevant phase relations can be used to estimate the magnitude and conditions of impacts in the early solar system. These findings are not only important for the early collisional history of meteorite parent bodies, but they are also relevant for studies of the structure and compositions of the interior of the Earth and of other planets.
In recent years Ahmed El Goresy resumed earlier work on enstatite chondrites, in particular the petrographic and chemical characterization of sulfide assemblages. His petrographic observations were complemented by SIMS and later nano-SIMS techniques in Ernst Zinner’s laboratory at Washington University in St Louis. More recently he cooperated with Maud Boyet’s group in Clermont-Ferrand on the chemical and isotopic characterization of oldhamites and other phases in enstatite chondrites. In addition, he was working with Smail Mostefaoui and the Nano-SIMS group in Paris on in-situ Mn-Cr dating of niningerite and sphalerite in enstatite chondrites. These studies help to unravel the timing and evolution of the enstatite chondrite parent body.
As with his teacher Paul Ramdohr much of Ahmed El Goresy’s scientific work was done after his retirement in 1998, demonstrating that innovative and creative research is independent of age, at least in the area where Ahmed El Goresy was active.
In scientific meetings Ahmed El Goresy was very outspoken. He clearly stated his opinion and never avoided discussion of controversial issues. He was extremely enthusiastic about his research. It was almost impossible to talk to him about other things than his own research. He was so excited about his findings that in his talks he would often exceed the time limit. His contributions in meetings and discussions will be missed.
Ahmed El Goresy had about 25 students; many of them have made a career in science. The first thing he taught them was to look through a microscope, as the base of any further work. Ahmed El Goresy saw features in thin sections others did not see. His knowledge of minerals, particularly opaque minerals, was enormous and as he was familiar with all relevant phase relations, he could right away explain these or speculate on the origin of the observed mineral assemblage.
Ahmed El Goresy served the scientific community as Council Member of the Meteoritical Society, Chairman of the International Commission on Cosmic Mineralogy of the International Mineralogical Association, United Nations Visiting Professor at the Institute of Mineral Deposits of the Chinese Academy of Geology, Beijing, China. He participated in the NASA Lunar and Planetary Science Review Board. He was awarded with the Victor-Moritz Goldschmidt Award and the Abraham-Gottlob-Werner Medal of the German Mineralogical Society, the highest award of the German Mineralogical Society. In 1972 he became fellow of the Meteoritical Society, and was the recipient of the Leonard Medal in 2013, the highest honor of the Society. He was invited as Fairchild Distinguished Scholar in 1983 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and he was guest Professor at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris in 1994, and more recently at the Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
With Ahmed El Goresy the Meteoritical Society lost a highly motivated researcher with extraordinary abilities. He dedicated his work to the observation and interpretation of microstructures in meteorites and he was one of the key drivers for progress in the field of cosmochemistry. Scientists like him have become rare.
August 21, 2019
June 18, 2019
Prof. Laurel Wilkening, a meteoriticist, university administrator, and advocate for planetary science and for women’s issues, passed away on June 4, 2019, in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 74. Born in Richland, Washington, on Nov. 23, 1944, she grew up in Socorro, New Mexico, and got her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Reed College.
It was as an undergraduate that Laurel became interested in Cosmochemistry. She received her PhD from the University of California San Diego in 1970, working with Hans Seuss. In an oral history, she described having recruited two Nobel laureates for her thesis committee, only to have one (Hannes Alfvén) say he would veto her PhD thesis if she left one portion of it in, while the other (Harold Urey) said he would veto it if she took it out. After several days of negotiations, the thesis was approved as written.
Wilkening began her scientific career studying the first samples returned from the Moon, and compared the exposure record of lunar samples, particularly as revealed by damage tracks from cosmic rays, with that of meteoritic regolith breccias. Later, her interests turned to comets. She edited the 1982 University of Arizona Press volume Comets, and was deeply involved with planning of a U.S. mission to Halley’s Comet that never materialized.
After her graduation, she worked and studied at several institutions, including the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, the Max Planck Institute for Cosmochemistry in Mainz, and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.
Laurel became a faculty member at the University of Arizona in 1973 in the newly-formed Department of Planetary Sciences. In 1981, she became Head of the department and Director of the associated Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. Shortly thereafter, she became the Acting Dean of Sciences at the university when that position was created, and then Vice President for Research. From the beginning of her career at Arizona, she was instrumental in advocating for women’s issues, including pay equity, and was a key figure in the establishment of what is now the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.
In 1988, she became Provost of the University of Washington, the first female to hold that position. In 1993, she became Chancellor of the University of California Irvine, a post from which she retired in 1998.
Throughout her career, Wilkening was a nationally prominent member of the planetary science community. She served as Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Programs, Chair of the Space Policy Advisory Board, and Vice Chair of the National Commission on Space during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Later, she became a member of the Board of Directors of The Planetary Society, serving four years as Vice President of the society.
Asteroid 75562 is named Wilkening in her honor. She was elected a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society in 1978.
Laurel was preceded in death by her husband, planetary scientist Godfrey Sill, and is survived by her brother and sister-in-law Wes and Mary Wilkening, niece Whitney Wilkening and nephew Ron Douglas.
Prof. Timothy D. SwindleDirector, Lunar & Planetary LaboratoryUniversity of Arizona
LA Times obituary:
May 29, 2019
Keizo Yanai at his museum in 2010. Image Credit: Asahi Shimbun
Keizo Yanai (1941-2018)
Prof. Keizo Yanai, a founder of Antarctic meteorite research, passed away on December 17, 2018, at the age of 77, in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, after several years of declining health. Keizo served many years as a curator at the National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) of Japan where he collected and allocated thousands of Antarctic meteorites for our community. He was born on July 25, 1941, in Furudono, Fukushima, Japan. He received his B.S. from Akita University and his Ph.D. degree in petrology (Mesozoic igneous rocks) from Tohoku University.
Keizo first joined a Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) as a field geologist in 1967-68 (JARE 9) to traverse to the South Pole from Syowa Station by snow vehicles (5182 km for a round-trip). The historical traverse taught him how to operate with snow vehicles in Antarctica. He visited the Yamato Mountains in 1973-74 (JARE 15), where an original purpose of the visit was geological fieldwork in the mountains. After the incidental discovery of meteorites on the bare ice field of the Yamato Mountains in 1969 by JARE 10, the ice field was recognized to yield meteorites. During the traverse to the Yamato Mountains, Keizo found some meteorites from his vehicle and modified his plan to organize a meteorite search instead of the originally planned geologic work. In spite of many logistical challenges posed by the snow vehicles, he collected 663 Yamato-74 meteorites during the 15-days’ field work. This work established that the Antarctic ice is an excellent host of various types of meteorites. Keizo also proposed a mechanism of meteorite concentration on the ice field associated with ice sheet movement around the mountains. His model is consistent with the occurrence of various types of meteorites with different ages at the same ice field. His research showed that new meteorites would appear from the ice with time.
After the successful meteorite recovery by JARE 15, the US-Japan Joint Program for meteorite search had started around the Transantarctic Mountains. In contrast to Japanese meteorite searches using snow vehicles, the US team used helicopter and foot searches for the field work. Nevertheless, Keizo had good eyes for the first discovery of a meteorite in Victoria Land at Mount Baldr on December 15, 1976. On the same expedition, he helped find large meteorites (total ~460 kg) at Allan Hills. Next year, he went back to Allan Hills to help collect 310 ALH-77 meteorites, including ALH 77005, the first martian meteorite to be found in Antarctica. The discovery of abundant meteorites in icefields along the Transantarctic Mountains led to the creation of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program in the U.S. After completing two field seasons at Victoria Land, Keizo returned to Yamato Mountains in 1979 for meteorite hunting with a big party (JARE 20). He conducted a systematic search and collected more than 3,500 Yamato-79 meteorites and 5 meteorites around the Belgica Mountains. They include lunar and martian meteorites, which opened a new window on planetary science and into understanding our solar system.
In addition to the meteorite searches, Keizo worked hard as a curator of Antarctic meteorites at NIPR. With very limited staff, he oversaw the preparation of thin sections, and chemical analysis of the new meteorites for classification. The initial petrological and chemical data were presented with beautiful photos, which were published as the red-covered book series “Photographic Catalog of the Antarctic Meteorites”. He also hosted the annual symposium on Antarctic meteorites at NIPR, and became an editor of the Proceedings of NIPR for Antarctic Meteorites.
Keizo desired to return to East Antarctica after the meteorite search in Victoria Land for ANSMET (1986-87), exploring a new field for meteorite hunting. The Sør Rondane Mountains are located about 600 km westward from the Yamato Mountains. A vast unknown ice field called Nansenisen was considered as a good place to find meteorites. In 1987, as a leader of the meteorite search party in JARE 29, he visited the Asuka Station which is located at the northern side of the Sør Rondane Mountains. It was hard to reach Nansenisen from the camp by snow vehicles, taking about one month for the traverse. Nevertheless, Keizo’s hunch proved to be correct, and the expedition found about 350 Asuka-87 and 2,000 Asuka-88 meteorites. After finishing the meteorite search, he accidentally wandered into a hidden crevasse area on the way to the Asuka Station from Nansenisen. On Friday, January 13th, 1989, Keizo and his colleague dropped down about 30 meters with their snow vehicle into a crevasse. To make matters worse, another colleague plunged into another crevasse during the rescue operation. Even though Keizo was injured, he encouraged the two injured colleagues to go home alive. After a week, they were rescued by a helicopter together with their meteorite collection. The accident in the Sør Rondane Mountains abruptly ended Keizo’s last expedition in Antarctica.
After the accident at the Sør Rondane Mountains, Keizo made every effort to get the two injured colleagues admitted to hospital for surgery in Japan as soon as possible against the decision of the headquarters of JARE. He deeply felt the responsibilities for his colleagues and their families. He said, “Of course, meteorite is most important, however, we have important things more than that. It may be more difficult to get the things understood by researchers than finding meteorites in Antarctica”. Finally, the operations were done in Japan. However, he was disciplined for his actions in the Sør Rondane Mountains, making it unpleasant for him to stay at NIPR. Keizo left NIPR to move to Iwate University in 1995, where he worked as a professor until his retirement in 2007. He travelled to the Mongolian desert for meteorite searches in 2002-05. He opened a private museum for meteorites and rocks in his home. After his retirement, he continued his passion for meteorite research and taught the importance of meteorites to high school students in the museum.
Keizo visited Antarctica 7 times and spent about 58 months (~ 5 years) there totally. He loved meteorites. He received many awards including Prime Minister’s Award of Japan (1969), Antarctic Service Medal from U.S. (1979) and Fellow of the Meteoritical Society (1990). His name is immortalized in the sky as the asteroid 9206 Yanaikeizo. He is survived by his wife, Yoko, and two sons, Kazuhiro and Akihiko.