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Remembering Gordon A. McKay


PSRD lost a good friend when Dr. Gordon McKay of the Johnson Space Center died suddenly on February 8, 2008. Gordon was a great researcher who focused on experimental cosmochemistry. He gave us the high-quality numbers to use in modeling the chemical evolution of planetary magma systems. You can trust Gordon's results. More important, you could trust Gordon. No hidden agendas. No stepping over others--indeed, he helped others, especially young scientists. He was one first-class guy.

Gordon McKay photographed by Jeff Taylor.

Gordon was on PSRD's editorial advisory board from our beginning in 1996. His advice early on helped us shape the way we approached writing articles, enabling us to strike the right balance between too technical and too simplified. He continued to support our efforts to bring cosmochemistry to a broad community of the public, educators, policy makers, and other scientists. We will miss his encouragement and advice.

I met Gordon when we were both graduate students at Rice University, way back in 1966. He was a senior geology major in a special program that allowed Rice students to get both a B.S. and a M.S. in five years. I had majored in physics in college, so when I arrived at Rice to study geology and geophysics I took almost every undergraduate geology course, including a few with Gordon. Since geology was his major, he knew a lot more about it than I did. He was a big help to me the neophyte. In truth, I never really did catch up to him! I'd call Gordon whenever I needed advice about trace element distribution coefficients (a measure of how an element partitions between a crystal and the magma in which it is forming). I was going to contact him again with some questions about which data to use in some lunar rock modeling. There are other experts I can call, of course. But I'd rather talk to Gordon, and I deeply regret not being able to do so anymore.

  — G. Jeffrey Taylor

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FEB 2008