Silver in 1972 during the Apollo 17 landing
|Born||Leon Theodore Silver
April 9, 1925
Monticello, New York
|Other names||Lee Silver|
|Education||Ph.D., Geology & Geochemistry (1955)|
|Alma mater||California Institute of Technology (Caltech)|
|Occupation||Geology professor, Emeritus|
|Known for||Training of Apollo astronauts in field geology|
Leon Theodore "Lee" Silver (born April 9, 1925), Professor of Geology at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), was an instructor to the Apollo 13, 15, 16, and 17 astronaut crews. Working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), he taught astronauts how to perform field geology, essentially creating lunar field geology as a new discipline. His training is credited with a significant improvement in the J-Mission Apollo flights' scientific returns. After the Apollo program, he became a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1974. Currently, he is the W. M. Keck Foundation Professor for Resource Geology, emeritus, at Caltech.
Early life and education
Leon Silver was born in Monticello, New York on April 9, 1925 as the youngest of five children. His parents were Russian and Polish immigrants of Jewish origin who moved the family to Waterbury, Connecticut soon after he was born. He graduated from Crosby High School in 1942.
He earned his BS in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1945; an MS in Geology at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque in 1948; and a Ph.D. in Geology and Geochemistry at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, in 1955.
Silver served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Civil Engineer Corps. He worked for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Mineral Deposits Branch, in Colorado and Arizona from 1947 to 1954 (field seasons only), where he attained the status of Assistant Geologist.
After completing his Ph.D., Silver was appointed Assistant Professor of Geology (1955–1962) at Caltech; he was later promoted to Associate Professor (1962–1965), Professor (1965–1983), and W. M. Keck Foundation Professor for Resource Geology (1983–1996), where he is now a professor emeritus since his retirement.
His main research interests are petrology, tectonics, and applications of geology and isotope geochemistry to geochronology, crustal evolution, ore deposits, and comparative planetology. While pursuing these research interests, Silver also played a major role in the Apollo Program's lunar geological exploration as well as on numerous national scientific advisory boards and committees.
NASA and Apollo Program involvement
- Geologist, Astrogeology Branch of the USGS, (1970–1976, part-time), contracted to work with NASA
- Geology Lecturer to NASA Scientist-Astronaut Classes, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas (Part Time 1968-1993)
- Lunar Surface Geology Experiment Team (Apollo 13-17)
- Lunar Sample Preliminary Examination Team (Apollo 15-17)
- Lunar Surface Traverse Planning Team (Apollo 15-17)
- Lunar Science Working Panel (Apollo 15-17)
- Lunar Sample Analysis Planning Team, Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas (1972–1974)
- Space Program Advisory Council Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Scientist-Astronauts (1974–1975)
In popular culture
Silver's work with the Apollo Program has been recounted, perhaps most notably, in Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon (1994). The book became a TV mini-series in 1998, with David Clennon portraying him in the HBO docu-drama series From The Earth To The Moon. In the series' Episode 10 "Galileo Was Right", Silver is shown teaching the Apollo 15 astronauts field geology, and participating from Houston's Mission Control in their lunar extra-vehicular activities (Moonwalks). Silver was interviewed about the episode and he felt that it "romanticized" the experience, and had minor historical inaccuracies, but otherwise liked it and showed it at a lecture in 1999.
In 2002, Apollo 15 Commander David Scott devoted a section of his co-authored book Two Sides of the Moon to the training and instruction that Scott and other Apollo astronauts received from Silver.
Leon Silver is a board member of the Caswell Silver Foundation at the University of New Mexico. The Foundation was created in 1980 through an endowment by Caswell Silver, an alumnus of the Department of Geology, independent oilman, and Leon Silver's brother. The Foundation supports education and research at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico.
His grandnephew is statistician and journalist Nate Silver.
Honors and awards
- In 1971 Silver was awarded a NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal both for his training of Apollo astronauts in geologic science and equally for his research:
For his significant scientific achievements in the development of highly precise isotopic compositions of uranium and lead in minerals and the applications of the age determination procedures in the analyses of lunar material. While diligently conducting these laboratory investigations of lunar material, he provided a major contribution by training the astronauts in geological sciences which, through his enthusiasm, leadership and guidance, has led to the successful exploration of the moon.
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1964)
- NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1971)
- NASA Group Achievement Award, Lunar Traverse Planning Team (1971)
- NASA Group Achievement Award, Crew Training and Simulation Team (1971)
- American Institute of Professional Geologists Award for Professional Excellence (1972)
- NASA Group Achievement Award, Lunar Landing Team (1973)
- NASA Group Achievement Award, Earth Resources Experiment Team (1974)
- NASA Group Achievement Award, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (1974)
- Member, National Academy of Sciences (elected 1974)
- President, Geological Society of America (1979).
- Centennial Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of New Mexico (1989)
- Allen, Clarence R., Leon T. Silver, and Francis Greenough Stehli. Agua Blanca Fault: A Major Transverse Structure Of Northern Baja California, Mexico. New York: The Society, 1960.
- Cooper, John Roberts, and Leon T. Silver. Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Dragoon Quadrangle, Cochise County, Arizona.Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964.
- Silver, Leon T., and Peter H. Schultz, eds. Geological Implications Of Impacts Of Large Asteroids and Comets On The Earth: Conference On Large Body Impacts And Terrestrial Evolution: Geological, Climatological, And Biological Implications. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America, 1982.
- Silver, L. T., I.S. Williams and J.A. Woodhead, eds. Uranium In Granites From the Southwestern United States: Actinide Parent-Daughter Systems, Sites and Mobilization: Second Year Report. Grand Junction, CO: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Assistant Secretary for Resource Applications, Grand Junction Office (1984).
- Silver, L. T., and B. W. Chappell. “The Peninsular Ranges Batholith: An Insight into the Evolution of the Cordilleran Batholiths of Southwestern North America.” Transnational Royal Society of Edinburgh 79 (1988): 105-121.
- Silver, L. T. “Daughter-parent Isotope Systematics in U-Th-bearing Ingeous Accessory Mineral Assemblages as Potential Indices of Metamorphic History: A Discussion of the Concept.” The Geochemical Society, Special Publication 3 (1991): 391-407.
- Woodhead, J. A., G. R. Rossman, and L. T. Silver. “The Metamictization of Zircon: Radiation Dose-Dependent Structural Characteristics.” Mineralogical Society of America 76 (1991): 74-82.
- Li, Y.-G., T. L. Henyey, and L. T. Silver. “Aspects of the Crustal Structure of the Western Mojave Desert, California, From Seismic Reflection and Gravity Data.” Journal of Geologic Research 97, B6 (1992): 8805-8816.
- Pratson, E. L., R. N. Anderson, R. E. Dove, M. Lyle, L. T. Silver, E. W. James and B. W. Chappell. “Geochemical Logging in the Cajon Pass Drillhole and its Application to a New Oxide, Igneous Rock Classification Scheme.” Journal of Geologic Research97 B4 (1992): 5167-5180.
- Manduca, C. A., L. T. Silver, and H. P. Taylor. “87Sr/86Sr and 18O/16O Isotopic Systematics and Geochemistry of Granitoid Plutons Across a Steeply Dipping Boundary Between Contrasting Lithologic Blocks in Western Idaho.” Contributions in Mineralogical Petrology 109 (1992): 355-372.
- Kanamori, H. (Hiroo), Robert W. Clayton, and Leon T. Silver. Earthquake and Seismicity Research Using SCARLET And CEDAR: Final Technical Report, 1 December 1990 - 30 November 1992. Pasadena, CA: Seismological Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 1993.
- Manduca, C. A., M. A. Kunz, and L. T. Silver, "Emplacement and deformation history of the western margin of the Idaho batholith, Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull., 105 (1993), 749-765.
- Silver, L. T. “Observations on the Extended Tectonic History of the Southern Sierra Nevada.” Geological Society of America Joint Cordilleran and Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Reno, Nevada. Geological Society of America (1993).
- Cohen, pp. ii-iii
- "Leon T. Silver". Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. Pasadena: California Institute of Technology. 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Drexler (1999)
- Butler (2002)
- Chaikin (1994)
- Scott & Leonov (2002)
- Ashburn, Nolan (December 1998). "Memorial to Caswell Silver 1916–1988" (PDF). Memorials, v. 29, December 1998 (Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America) 29. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Ashcraft, Ellen K. (2002). "Caswell Silver Foundation is Sterling". Developments (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico) (Spring 2002). Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- "Leon Silver Receives NASA Medal". The California Tech (Pasadena: California Institute of Technology). LXXIII (10). 1971-12-02.
- "GSA Past Presidents". About GSA. Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America. 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Bain, Harry; Jacquelyn Hershey (1971). "Geology on the Moon" (PDF). Engineering and Science (Pasadena: California Institute of Technology) 35 (2): 4–13. ISSN 0013-7812. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Butler, Carol (2002). "Leon T. Silver Interview: Houston, Texas, May 5, 2002" (PDF). NASA Johnson Space Center Oral Project, Oral History Transcripts. NASA. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- Chaikin, Andrew (1994). A Man On The Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts. Viking. ISBN 0-670-81446-6.
- Cohen, Shirley K. (2000). "Leon T. Silver Interview: Pasadena, California, December 12 and 20, 1994; January 9, 16, and 25, 1995; and February 23, 2000.". Oral History Project. Pasadena: California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- Drexler, Marcy (1999). "A Little Science on the Moon". Caltech News (Pasadena: California Institute of Technology) 33 (3). Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Scott, David, and Alexei Leonov. Two Sides of the Moon: The Story of the Cold War Space Race. New York: St. Martin's, 2006. (ISBN 0312308663)
- Schaber, Gerald G. (2005). "The U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Astrogeology—A Chronology of Activities from Conception through the End of Project Apollo (1960-1973)". Open File Report. Reston, Virginia: United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Ulivi, Paolo; David Michael Harland, Chaochen Zhou (2004). Lunar Exploration: Human Pioneers and Robotic Surveyors. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 1-85233-746-X.