Obituary: Haskin, earth and planetary sciences professor; 70

Larry A. Haskin, Ph.D., retired professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, died Thursday, March 24, 2005, in his sleep at home. He was 70.

Although active until his death, he had been fighting the blood disorder myelofibrosis for many years.

Larry Haskin
Larry Haskin

Haskin was an internationally known geochemist and was one of the first planetary scientists to study rock samples taken from the moon during the Apollo missions.

Haskin was a NASA scientist, joining the agency in 1973 as chief of the Planetary and Earth Sciences Division at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He left NASA in 1976 to become professor and chair of WUSTL’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the latter a position he held until 1990.

In 1986, Haskin was named the first Ralph E. Morrow Distinguished University Professor, a title he held until his retirement in December 2000.

He remained active with NASA, serving on various committees.

Early in his WUSTL career, he held a joint appointment with the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences and he was a fellow of the McDonnell Center for Space Sciences.

“Larry Haskin will be remembered fondly by those of us who knew him,” said Raymond E. Arvidson, Ph.D., the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and Haskin’s successor as department chair. “He was a wonderful teacher, researcher, and mentor.

“During his term as chairman of earth and planetary sciences from 1976 until 1990, he began the development of the department that now ranks as one of the best in the world. We will miss his kindness, deep insight and leadership.”

Haskin was born in Olathe, Kan., on Aug. 17, 1934. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Kansas in 1960. Haskin was on the chemistry faculty of the University of Wisconsin from 1960-73.

Among many honors and achievements, Haskin was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1966-67, when he studied at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. In 1971, he received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award.

Haskin had a broad array of research interests.

He described the main goals of his work as “to further precise, accurate geochemical analysis; gain quantitative understanding of trace-element behavior through rock analysis and geochemical modeling, with experimental work to provide modeling parameters and better understanding; and introduction to the application of some methods of physical chemistry to geochemical work (neutron activation analysis, electron paramagnetic resonance, silicate electrochemistry, planetary Raman spectroscopy).”

He was known for his articulate and persuasive concepts of returning to the Moon and using the planet wisely as an energy source and a true satellite for further space exploration. Most recently, he made significant contributions to the Mars exploration rover mission, working with colleagues from WUSTL and NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Haskin is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Dierk; his daughters, Rachel and Jean; and four grandchildren.

There will be no public service. A memorial service is planned, and the date will be announced shortly.