Robert M Walker

1929 – 2004

Prior to joining Washington University as the McDonnell Professor of Physics in 1966, Walker spent twelve years as a Research Physicist at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York. He has held visiting positions at the University of Paris, France (1962-63); Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy New York (1964-65); California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (1972); Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India (1980); and Institut d'Astrophysique, Paris, France (1981).

He was a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Meteoritical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, and has served on numerous advisory committees dealing with different aspects of space science.

Walker has received the following awards: American Nuclear Society Annual Award (1964), Yale Engineering Assoc. Annual Award for Contributions to Basic and Applied Science (1966), NASA Exceptional Scientific Award (1970), U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's E.O. Lawrence Memorial Award (1971 ), Antarctic Service Medal of the National Science Foundation (1985), the J. Lawrence Smith Medal of the National Academy of Sciences (1991), Officier de l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques (1992), and the Leonard Metal of the Meteoritical Society (1993). He was also awarded honorary degrees from Union College, Schenectady, New York (1967) and the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France (1975). Two Industrial Research IR-100 awards (1964 and 1965) were given for products that he helped develop.

Long interested in the application of science to international development, Walker was a founder and the first president of Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA), a volunteer organization of over 5,000 engineers and scientists who work on practical problems relevant to developing countries.

Prof. Walker was best known for fundamental investigations of radiation effects in metals, the discovery of etched track detectors, and the application of these detectors to a variety of scientific and practical problems including the development of Nuclepore filters, the fission-track dating method, the discovery of extremely heavy cosmic rays, and the record of energetic particles in space as recorded in extraterrestrial materials. He has also conducted research in thermoluminescence and its application to art authentication and archaeological dating. Major current interests include the laboratory study of extraterrestrial dust particles collected in the upper atmosphere and the location and identification of preserved interstellar dust in primitive meteorites. He was the first Director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences at Washington University which was established in 1974.

His most recent work focused on the discovery and characterization of presolar grains from a variety of primitive meteorites. Another important research topic was the study of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) and their relationship to other extraterrestrial materials. A "Robert M. Walker Symposium" was held in his honor at Washington University in March 2003.

Robert M. Walker passed away on February 12, 2004 in Brussels after an extended struggle with stomach cancer. Read the obituary in the Washington University Record. There was a memorial service in his honor on May 6, 2004.

Links to other pages on this web site:

•Obituary from the Laboratory for Space Sciences 'News' page
Photos from the Walker memorial service in May 2004
•Robert M. Walker Symposium, held at Washington University in March 2003

Links to downloadable PDF files:

•Floss C., Sandford S., and Zinner E. (2004). Memorial, Robert M. Walker, 1929-2004.
Meteorit. Planet. Sci. 39, 1409-1411.
•Price P. B. and Zinner E. (2004). Robert M. Walker.
Biographical Memoirs. Natl. Acad. Sci., Vol. 86, 1-24.
Articles in the Washington University Record:

Walker, 'a dominant force for excellence,' dies, Feb. 2004
Walker honored via symposium, Mar. 2003
Walker symposium to cover numerous scientific topics, Feb. 2003
Asteroids as namesakes: Crozaz, Walker receive singular distinction, Sep. 1999
Microprobe coming to McDonnell Center, One-of-a-kind instrument helps analyze cosmic dust, Oct. 1998
Paul E. Lacy and Robert M. Walker each receive lifetime service award, Mar. 1997