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Dr. Clifford Frondel, Among First to View Apollo Moon Rocks, Dies
Dr. Clifford Frondel, Among First to View Apollo Moon Rocks, Dies
20 Nov 2002
(Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Cleveland Plain Dealer

From wire reports

Winchester, Mass.- Dr. Clifford Frondel, a Harvard mineralogist who was among the first people on Earth to view rocks brought back from the moon, died Tuesday at 95.

As a scientist recruited by NASA to study the moon rocks brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts, Frondel was present when a box containing 48 pounds of rocks from the Sea of Tranquillity was opened in Houston on July 25, 1969.

"It's basalt! It's igneous!" Frondel exclaimed upon examining the rocks.

At the time, no one had known what to expect, said Dr. Carl Francis, who succeeded Frondel as curator of the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in 1977.

Still, the authorities supervising the study were taking no chances. When Frondel was exposed to lunar dust later that year while he was researching samples from the Apollo 12 mission, he was quarantined for two weeks.

"They worried that if there was some kind of life on the moon and it leaked into the environment, it could have devastating consequences," Francis said.

Through the years, Frondel was credited with discovering 48 new types of minerals. He had two minerals, Cliffordite and Frondelite, named in his honor.

In World War II, he worked with the Army Signal Corps to make quartz oscillator plates in walkie-talkies more efficient. The later application of that research is evident in the use of quartz timing devices in watches.

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Last Updated: 21 Nov 2002