Theodore (Ted) E. Bunch, 1936–2023

Ted Bunch

Theodore (Ted) E. Bunch, 87, passed away on Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Prescott, Arizona. Bunch was a world-class expert in meteorite identification and classification and was recognized for his work on shocked quartz and the Younger Dyas impact hypothesis.

Bunch was born on March 1, 1936, in Huntsville, Ohio. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and he then went on to the University of Pittsburgh, earning a Ph.D. in Geology in 1966. He had a distinguished 32-year-long career at NASA as a meteoriticist, earning the H. Julian Allen Award in 1981 for his publication on chondrites, the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and the NASA Apollo Achievement Award, among others.

Bunch had hundreds of his scientific papers published, and after retiring from NASA Ames in 2001 as the Chief of Exobiology, he worked as an adjunct Professor of Geology at Northern Arizona University. He also volunteered his time as a Native American Petroglyph Site Steward, dedicated to the preservation and education of Northern Arizona’s Native history.

Bunch worked tirelessly for nearly two decades to produce hard data concerning the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis. Among many other highly technical skills, he was an expert microscopist and geochemical investigator. These skills were valuable to NASA, where he was employed as Section Chief in Exobiology, a position from which he retired after 30 years.

Bunch was an expert in “shocked quartz,” a critical impact proxy that was the subject of his dissertation. Because of his research, shocked quartz is now recognized as a signature for major cosmic ground impacts (and coming soon, airbursts). He coauthored a paper on the subject of shocked quartz with the Cosmic Research Group that will be in print very soon, published posthumously on a subject he mastered while John F. Kennedy was president.

Bunch also had a special role as a world-class expert in meteorite identification and classification. He and Dr. James Wittke identified and classified thousands of meteorites (and meteorwrongs) at the Northern Arizona Meteorite Laboratory. Over his life he published well over 250 papers and capped it off with the best evidence ever for the Younger Dryas impact. His love of nature meant that his children were raised with an appreciation for the outdoors, with backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevadas and hikes to petroglyph sites, identifying the flora and fauna along the way.

— Text courtesy of the Cosmic Tusk (George Howard) and the Daily Courier, Prescott, Arizona