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Wasserburg, Gerald J. (Gerald Joseph), 1927- (Geologist, Geophysicist)



  • Existence: 1927 - 2016


Background: Caltech Professor of Geology and Geophysics, 1955-2001; Chairman, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, 1987-1989; Executive Officer for Geochemistry, 1987-1989; Professor Emeritus 2002-.


Description: GERALD JOSEPH WASSERBURG was born March 25, 1927, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He entered the University of Chicago in 1948 with a major first in geology, then in physics. He earned his PhD from Chicago in 1954 with a thesis on potassium-argon dating under Harold C. Urey and Mark Inghram. He joined the Caltech faculty in 1955 and was named full professor in 1962 and John D. MacArthur Professor of Geology and Geophysics in 1982.

Wasserburg's research interests are geochemistry, geophysics, and astrophysics. He developed ultra-high precision and high sensitivity mass spectrometric and chemical techniques to study the origins and history of the solar system and its component bodies. He designed the first digital output with magnet switching and online processing computer-controlled mass spectrometer, which he named "Lunatic I," at the same time denominating his laboratory at Caltech The Lunatic Asylum. His work established a time scale for the development of the early solar system including the end of the process of nucleosynthesis and the formation of solid objects such as planets, the moons, and meteorites about 4500 million years ago. Wasserburg is widely acknowledged for his isotope studies of lunar materials collected by NASA's Apollo missions and his involvement in US space research programs. Among his many honors and awards is the Crafoord Prize, 1986.


Collection Notes: Papers, mixed media.

Collection size: 85 linear ft.

Collection guide online at OAC.

Found in 22 Collections and/or Records:

Caltech Y talk

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1995-00304

Caricature of Mad Tea Party in Lunatic Asylum

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1987-00415

Crafoord Medal Dinner

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00669

Crafoord Prize Speech (Re-Enacted)

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00671

Gerald J. Wasserburg Oral History Interview with David A. Valone, 1995-03-25 - 1995-05-17

Scope and Contents An interview in four sessions, in April and May 1995, with Gerald J. Wasserburg, John D. MacArthur Professor of Geology and Geophysics, emeritus, in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. After a stint in the U. S. Army, Dr. Wasserburg matriculated at Rutgers University, then the University of Chicago (BS 1951); graduate school at Chicago (MS 1952; PhD 1954). He joined the Caltech faculty as assistant professor of geology in 1955, becoming full professor in 1963 and MacArthur...
Dates: 1995-03-25 - 1995-05-17

Interview Re: The Moon

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1987-00416

Kellogg 50th Anniversary Symposium

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1995-00306

Moon Rocks & Their Revelation

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00670

Silliman Symposium

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2002-00581

Stones & Stars & Gas & Dust

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2022-01-25-000022

Stories & Stars & Gas & Dust

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1986-00672

The Earth And The Planets Conference

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1995-00305

Wasserburg Clean Room, ca 1975

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 2007-00176

Gerald J. Wasserburg Papers

Identifier: 10163-MS
Abstract The scientific and personal correspondence, organizational and government files, NASA files including Apollo missions and lunar sample analysis, notebooks, biographical materials and audiovisual materials of Gerald J. Wasserburg (b. 1927) form the collection known as the Gerald J. Wasserburg Papers in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Appointed to the faculty at Caltech in 1955, Wasserburg won the Crafoord Prize in 1986 with Claude J. All├Ęgre for their...
Dates: 1927-2011

Wasserburg Photographs

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: 1988-01025

Additional filters:

Unprocessed Material 17
Archival Object 2
Digital Record 2
Collection 1
Geology 13
Geophysics 4
Crafoord Prize 3
Fine Art 3
Conferences 2