The University of Arizona

Oral histories in meteorites and planetary science: X. Ralph B. Baldwin

U. B. Marvin


In this interview, Ralph Baldwin describes how he earned his Ph.D. in astronomy and then, early in his career, became interested in the Moon and the origin of its craters. When he concluded that the craters were formed by meteorite impacts rather than by volcanism, he faced great difficulties in finding an audience or a publisher. During World War II, he helped to design and develop operating specifications for the radio proximity fuze which has been credited with shortening the War by at least one year. Subsequently, he joined the family firm, The Oliver Machinery Company, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He pursued his lunar studies on nights and weekends and wrote his first book, The Face of the Moon, which was published in 1949. Sales were poor, but the book was read by Harold C. Urey, who sought out Baldwin for discussions about the Moon, and by Peter M. Millman, in Ottawa, who prompted Dr. Carlyle S. Beals, the Dominion Astronomer, to begin the highly successful search for impact craters on the Canadian Shield. With his second book, The Measure of the Moon, published in 1963, Baldwin became recognized as a leading authority on the Moon and on planetary processes in general. He is the only scientist other than Eugene M. Shoemaker to whom the Meteoritical Society has presented both its Leonard Medal, in 1986, and its Barringer Medal, in 2000, and who also received the G. K. Gilbert Award, in 1986, from the Planetary Sciences Division of the Geologial Society of America.


Ralph B. Baldwin

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