Gordon J.F. MacDonald died unexpectedly at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 14 May 2002, following a distinguished career as a scientist, teacher, and public servant. One of the most creative and innovative geoscientists of the 20th century MacDonald was a major force in public policy issues, and his work spanned a number of scientific fields.
MacDonald was a scientist of extraordinary diversity having studied and written on problems ranging from the experimental geochemistry of minerals at high pressure and temperature, to planetary science to environmental science and climate change. He was awarded AGU's James B. Macelwane Medal in 1965 for recognition of outstanding young scientists. In 1963, he was the founding editor-in-chief of AGU's Reviews of Geophysics.