Shoemaker, E. M. (Eugene Merle), 1928-1997

Alternative names
Birth 1928-04-28
Death 1997-07-18

Biographical notes:

Eugene Merl Shoemaker (1928-1997).

From the description of Oral history interview with Eugene Merle Shoemaker, 1986 January 30 to 1988 September 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81474023

Eugene Merle Shoemaker (b. April 28, 1928, Los Angeles, California-d. July 18, 1997, Alice Springs, Australia) earned a B.S. in geology in 1947 from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and subsequently earned a M.S. from the same institution in 1948. Upon graduating, Shoemaker joined the United States Geological Survey (USGS) a geologist on July 30, 1948, working in the Branch of Mineral Deposits in Grand Junction, Colorado where he assisted in the geological mapping of the Colorado Plateau and its uranium deposits. From 1952 to 1955, Shoemaker was the Chief of Distribution of the Elements Project in the Mineral Investigations Section of the Branch of Mineral Deposits in Grand Junction, Colorado. In 1956, he joined the Colorado District of the Branch of Mineral Deposits in Grand Junction, Colorado where he researched the mechanics and formation of meteorite impacts and nuclear explosion craters. In June 1958, he moved to Menlo Park, California, and subsequently joined the Western Area District of the Branch of Mineral Deposits in August 1958. From August 1958 to November 1960, Shoemaker completed field studies of Meteor Crater, Arizona. With the assistance of geologist Edward Chao, Shoemaker discovered coesite, a high-pressure form of silica created during meteor impacts, thereby reversing the long-held belief that Meteor Crater was volcanic in origin. In 1960, Shoemaker earned his Ph.D. in geology from Princeton University and spearheaded the creation of the Astrogeologic Studies Section in the Branch of Mineral Deposits. By 1961, due in large measure to Shoemaker’s enthusiasm for meteorite and lunar studies, the Astrogeologic Studies Section in the Branch of Mineral Deposits was upgraded to a full-fledged branch within the USGS called the Branch of Astrogeology located in Menlo Park, California. Thus, Shoemaker became the first Branch Chief of the Branch of Astrogeology where he assembled a team of scientists dedicated to expanding mankind’s knowledge of planetary science. Between 1961 and 1967, Shoemaker worked closely with scientific counterparts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and became a principal figure in NASA’s Ranger, Surveyor, and Apollo programs. In 1963, the Branch of Astrogeology relocated its headquarters to Flagstaff, Arizona. On June 9, 1967, the Branch of Astrogeology was divided into two branches; the Branch of Astrogeologic Studies and the Branch of Surface Planetary Exploration. After this administrative change, Shoemaker took the title of Chief Scientist, overseeing the broad direction of these branches and other units at the Center of Astrogeology in Flagstaff, Arizona. From February 1969 to February 1970, he was detailed at NASA as a geology consultant to facilitate lunar sample analysis for the Apollo program. After completing his NASA detail, Shoemaker returned to the USGS working in the Branch of Surface Planetary Exploration where he continued to work closely with NASA personnel and USGS geologists in the areas of astronaut geology training and lunar sample analysis. Near the end of the Apollo program in July 1972, he left the Branch of Surface Planetary Exploration to work in several other USGS branches in Flagstaff, Arizona including: the Branch of Regional Geophysics, July 9, 1972-Oct. 23, 1974; the Branch of Theoretical and Applied Geophysics from October 24, 1974 to January 31, 1976; and the Branch of Petrophysics and Remote Sensing from February 01, 1976 to March 29, 1982. On March 30, 1982, Shoemaker transferred to the Branch of Astrogeologic Studies. On January 11, 1983, the Branch of Astrogeologic Studies was re-designated as the Branch of Astrogeology where Shoemaker continued to work until his retirement on August 31, 1993. Shortly before retiring, Shoemaker, along with astronomer David Levy, discovered a comet orbiting Jupiter in March 1993. The comet was named Shoemaker-Levy 9 and it was the first comet ever discovered to be orbiting a planet. The comet collided with Jupiter in July 1994. Beyond his work at the USGS, Shoemaker taught geology at the California Institute of Technology from 1962 to 1985. He also chaired Caltech's Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences from 1969 to 1972. Shoemaker died on July 18, 1997 in Alice Springs, Australia in a car accident while conducting field research on impact craters.

From the description of Shoemaker, Eugene Merle, 1928-1997 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 12145510

Shoemaker was Assistant to the Director, Lunar and Planetary Programs, Office of Space Sciences.

From the description of New Joint Office of Space Sciences-Office of Manned Space Flight Working Group : letter to William H. Pickering, JPL Director, 1962 Nov 28. (Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library and Archives). WorldCat record id: 733100700


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Ark ID:


  • Geology
  • Lunar geology
  • Lunar stratigraphy
  • Uranium ores--Geology
  • Nuclear excavation
  • Ranger 7 lunar probe:
  • Ranger project :


not available for this record


  • Ries (Germany) (as recorded)
  • Meteor Crater (Ariz.) (as recorded)