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Remembering Lawrence A. Taylor


— A Taylor Perspective

Lunar exploration has lost one of its most creative and devoted voices. Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Taylor passed away on September 18, 2017, leaving a hole in lunar science and a deep sadness in the hearts of all who knew him. The only compensation is that we know he lived life to its fullest.

Three Taylors.
[Left to right] S. Ross Taylor, G. Jeffrey Taylor, and L. Augustus Taylor at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, circa 1980. Photographer unknown.

We have known Larry for decades and shared many an adventure with him, from vacation touring to a field trip at the Stillwater igneous complex. We always discussed the idea of writing a paper together. We were not completely sure that the world needed a paper by Taylor, Taylor, and Taylor, but we wanted one. We finally vowed to do that during the 2005 Meteoritical Society meeting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, even outlining a paper about the bulk composition of the Moon, a common interest among us. After some new work, energetic discussion, writing, and editing (Larry was really good at editing!) the paper appeared in 2006 in a special issue of Geochimica et Cosmochimica dedicated to Larry Haskin, another pioneer in lunar science. It was modestly entitled "The Moon—A Taylor Perspective," often referred to as "Taylor-cubed." S. Ross Taylor and G. Jeffrey Taylor insisted on listing Larry as L. Augustus Taylor, which he agreed to because he liked the idea and he liked us. (If he did not like the idea, he would have let us know clearly and forcefully! You always knew where he stood on an issue.)

Jeff recollects: I got to know Larry well while serving on numerous NASA review panels and especially the Lunar and Planetary Sample Team (LAPST). LAPST made recommendations to NASA about allocations of lunar samples. Larry's knowledge of the samples and of essentially all types of analyses, coupled with his enthusiasm for learning about the Moon, made him a crucial member of the committee. More importantly, it was in the evenings, often late, often walking around the parking lot of the now-replaced Ramada Inn (nicknamed "The Roach Motel") that solidified a friendship. What better way to enhance a friendship than discussing some difficult personal problems? Larry had sage advice and fascinating stories about his childhood growing up above a bar.

Ross recollects: I was fated to meet Larry long before I knew him. After I finished my Ph.D. at Indiana with Brian Mason, I worked for a year in Dick Leininger's lab as a spectrographer before going to Oxford to work with Louis Ahrens. Larry was my successor. He told me later that he found all sorts of samples labeled "Taylor." Perhaps because of this, Larry started to call me "Dad" and so the infamous Trinity arose. After I went to the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, invited by Joe Chamberlin, to write Lunar Science: A Post-Apollo View, in 1973, Larry was already famous and I sent the chapter on the lunar highlands to him to review. After that, we met frequently and I enjoyed his hilarious visits to Australia to see Kangaroos and fairy penguins and his gruesome accounts of operations in Siberia. Larry, Dawn and I had a great time in Gatlinburg in 2005 where Larry made me a special guest and at the Meteoritical Society meeting in Dublin in 1998 that included a splendid field trip with Brian Mason afterwards. But among other outstanding visits was his arduous trip to my 90th birthday celebration in Canberra with Dawn a couple of years ago.

Larry Taylor was a superb scientist. His work on lunar resources is visionary. His dedication to lunar exploration is inspiring. We will miss this great lunatic and his friendship, his sharp brain, his frankness, and his zest for life.

  — G. Jeffrey Taylor and S. Ross Taylor

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SEPT 2017