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In memoriam: Emeritus Regents Professor Carleton Moore

ASU Emeritus Regents Professor Carleton Moore smiles in a lab with his hands placed on two meteorites.

ASU Emeritus Regents Professor Carleton Moore died on Friday, Feb. 10, at the age of 90.

February 24, 2023

Arizona State University is mourning the loss of Emeritus Regents Professor Carleton Moore, who died on Friday, Feb. 10, at the age of 90.

Moore was a highly respected researcher in the School of Molecular Sciences and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. He was also the founding director of the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies, a position he held from 1961 to 2003.

During his tenure at ASU, among many other achievements, Moore assisted in training NASA Apollo astronauts, analyzed lunar samples from several Apollo missions, was among the first researchers to identify extraterrestrial amino acids in meteorites and conducted research on numerous meteorites. He was awarded over 35 research grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey. He published over 160 papers on meteorite research and served as thesis advisor to 36 master's and doctoral students at ASU.

Long-time friend and colleague, and former department chair, Morton Monk recalled, “Carleton Moore joined the faculty in the then-Department of Chemistry at ASU at an exciting time. ASU had very recently appointed a promising scholarly disrupter as President G. Homer Durham. A distinguished scientist, Leroy Eyring, had just assumed the leadership of the department. Change was blowing in the wind.

"Carleton believed he had a role to play in shaping this young department. He thoughtfully and openly shared his emerging views and engaged others in spirited discussions about the future of the department. He established and nurtured a strong, nationally recognized program in meteorite studies, contributions recognized by his appointment as Regents Professor. Because of his prominence in the field, the Center for Meteorite Studies, which he founded and directed, was a privileged recipient of a sample of the initial collection of moon rocks, providing an unequalled learning experience for his students. Carleton, early on, and along with others, visualized a role for the Central Arizona Section of the American Chemical Society more closely linked with the academic programs of the department. This led to the establishment of the longstanding Distinguished Lecturer Series — now the Eyring Lecture — inaugurated by Linus Pauling.

"Carleton never forgot his role as a good steward of the university. Throughout his career at ASU, he gave generously of his time and knowledge to department, college and university committee work. His service was widely recognized across the campus, culminating in his election as President of the Academic Senate. Carleton is now off on a new journey, but fortunately for ASU, his imprint on the university remains.”

Meenakshi (Mini) Wadhwa, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, said, “As founding director of the Center for Meteorite Studies, Professor Carleton Moore was responsible for growing the center’s amazing meteorite collection. He was an incredibly productive and visionary scientific leader who laid the foundations of ASU’s leadership in the planetary sciences.

"While he retired in 2003, he remained actively engaged with activities on campus until very recently. At the time of the 50th anniversary of the Center for Meteorite Studies in 2011, the center’s collection was named in his honor as the Carleton B. Moore Meteorite Collection. He will be remembered not only for his contributions to meteoritics and planetary science, but also because he was a wonderful person.”

Rhonda Stroud, director of the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies, added, "The Carleton B. Moore Meteorite Collection at ASU is a priceless resource for research and education because Carleton made it so. For over four decades as center director and up until his last days, he remained passionate about advancing our knowledge of the solar system through meteorite studies. His encyclopedic knowledge of planetary materials and his cheerful admonishments to 'keep smiling!' will be deeply missed.”

Laurence Garvie, curator of the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies, recalled, “For the last few years, Carleton and I chatted by phone almost every week. He had an amazing memory and had an endless supply of stories about meteorites, meteorite dealers and history.

"Carleton arrived in 1961 as the founding director of CMS when ASU acquired about one-third of the world-famous Nininger meteorite collection. Over his (roughly) 40 years as director, he more than doubled the size of the collection, with the acquisition of many important falls and finds. In my opinion, his acquisition of the Shepard collection cemented (the Center for Meteorite Studies) at ASU as a top-ranking collection and provided the strong foundation for what we are today. He was always generous with his time and regularly attended our public outreach events, and often had a small pocket of Canyon Diablo irons to give to children. I am so sad that Carleton is no longer with us. I will miss our weekly chats, which usually started with, 'Well, what’s new in the world of meteorites?'” 

Peter Buseck, for whom the Center of Meteorite Studies was named in 2021, said, "Carleton was a long-time colleague and fellow meteorite researcher, was deeply devoted to the meteorite collection and to the Center of Meteorite Studies, of which he was director throughout a long career as an active ASU faculty member.

"Notable among many memories is the time when a collector arrived fresh from Mexico with a van full of trays of the fabulous Allende carbonaceous chondrite meteorite, collected shortly after its fall in Pueblo de Allende, Chihuahua. Little did we know just how scientifically valuable it would turn out to be.

"Carleton continued his interest in meteorites even long into his retirement. He was always good at telling stories as well as jokes, and he loved doing both, commonly laughing heartily, infectiously and cheerily as he told them. We had many good times together. He made an impact that will be long remembered at ASU and beyond.”

Mary Bucciarelli, who worked in the SMS front office, remembers Moore fondly: “Every Valentine’s Day, Carleton would stop by the office with a heart-shaped box of candy for each of us in the front office. This was just an example of his kindness and generosity. He was always upbeat and funny, and I appreciated his contributions to the department and ASU.”

Read more about Moore’s many contributions to ASU and to the field of meteoritics.

Kimberley Baptista, School of Earth and Space Exploration Media Relations and Marketing manager, contributed to this article.

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