H. Jay Melosh, 1947–2020

H. Jay Melosh

H. Jay Melosh. Credit: Purdue University.

H. Jay Melosh, a Distinguished Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University, passed away on September 11, 2020.

Melosh earned a degree in physics from Princeton University and a doctoral degree in physics and geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1972. His Ph.D. thesis concerned quarks, but his professional research interests included impact craters, planetary tectonics, and the physics of earthquakes and landslides. His recent research included studies of the giant impact origin of the Moon, the Chicxulub impact that is thought to have extinguished most dinosaurs, and studies of ejection of rocks from their parent bodies. He was also active in astrobiological studies that relate chiefly to the exchange of microorganisms between the terrestrial planets (a process known as panspermia or transpermia).

Melosh joined the faculty of Purdue University in 2009 and remained on staff there until his death. Prior to his job at Purdue, he was a Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona from 1982–2009.

Melosh was a member of the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Meteoritical Society, American Astronomical Society (Division of Planetary Sciences,) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was the recipient of the Barringer Medal of the Meteoritical Society for his work on the physics of impact, and of the G. K. Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003.

Asteroid 8216 Melosh is named in his honor.