Fellows update—May 2021

May 31, 2021

Honours and awards to Fellows

Professor Steven Chown FAA—awarded the Medal of the 30th anniversary of the Madrid Protocol on the Protection of the Antarctic Environment


Emeritus Professor Stuart Ross Taylor AC FAA FRSNZ NAS

Emeritus Professor Ross Taylor

26 November 1925 to 23 May 2021

Emeritus Professor Ross Taylor was elected to the Academy in 1978 for his contributions to the development of spectrographic methods of analysis and pioneering the use of spark source mass spectrometry on geological materials. He developed methods using the variations in the ratios of trace elements entering the same lattice sites in minerals to provide genetic information about crystallization processes in igneous rocks. This had important application to the study of andesite in subduction zone settings, suggesting that they are derived from the mantle and not the crust as previously supposed, and leading to his ‘andesite model’ for the formation of continental crust. He made extensive studies of tektites and meteorite impact glasses and identified the source material of Henbury and Darwin glass. At NASA, he undertook the first analyses of lunar return samples from the Apollo 11 mission, launching his long career in lunar sample analyses and making him one of the world experts on the origin of the Moon. Using the trace element compositions of fine-grained terrigenous sedimentary rocks, he determined the composition of the continental crust and how it has changed over Earth history.

Professor Taylor was born in New Zealand in 1925. After completing a BSc and an MSc Hons at the University of New Zealand, Professor Taylor received his PhD in geochemistry from Indiana University. He then taught at the University of Oxford where he set up an emission spectroscopy laboratory. In 1958, Professor Taylor was appointed senior lecturer in geochemistry at the University of Cape Town. Then in 1961 he moved to the Australian National University (ANU) at the invitation of Professor John Jaeger FAA FRS. Professor Taylor remained at the ANU until his retirement in 1990. He was part of the team of international scientists invited by NASA to analyse lunar samples recovered by the Apollo 11 and 12 missions. This led to his appointment as a NASA principal investigator. In 2019, NASA recognised his work during the 50th anniversary celebrations, presenting him with an Australian flag that had travelled to the moon. Asteroid 5670 ‘Rosstaylor’ is named for him. The ANU’s Ross Taylor Endowment supports PhD students in the field of geochemistry.

Professor Taylor gave his time very generously to the Academy, serving on many committees including several National Committees, International Exchange Committees, Advisory and Standing Committees, Sectional Committees and Award Committees. Professor Taylor was a very engaged Fellow whose sustained and committed contribution to so many activities of the Academy is truly phenomenal.

Professor Taylor received numerous awards and honours for his work, including the Norman L. Bowen Award from the American Geophysical Union in 1988 and its Bucher Medal in 2004; the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal from the NASA Lunar and Planetary Institute in 2012; the Goldschmidt Medal from the Geochemical Society in 1993; the G K Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America in 1994; and the Leonard Medal from the Meteoritical Society in 1998.

He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2008. He was a Fellow of the Geological Society (UK), the Geological Society of Australia, Honorary Fellow of The Royal Society Te Aparangi and the Geological Society of India, Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, and Heritage Fellow of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Texas.

Professor Taylor was interviewed for the Academy in 2000 by Professor Bob Crompton.

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science