Klaus Keil—an Appreciation
It is an honor for us to dedicate the Workshop on Formation of the First Solids in the Solar System and the papers from the workship in this issue of Meteoritics & Planetary Science to Klaus Keil, to celebrate his illustrious career as a scientist, educator, leader, mentor, friend, and dedicated family man. We have worked with Klaus for a total of 102 person years. During that time Klaus’s abundant enthusiasm for meteoritics has never waivered, even when he took on (with great skill) complicated and time-consuming administrative duties. Klaus’s zest for meteorites began with his doctoral dissertation research, which involved modal analyses of 300 thin sections with a combined area of 3700 cm2 of 73 chondrites, and has continued through his recent paper on EL3 chondrites with his student Deon van Niekerk. In between, Klaus published five hundred peer-reviewed articles on every kind of meteorite.
As detailed in his conversation with Derek Sears in this issue, Klaus grew up in Jena, former East Germany, where he received his doctorate. He began a westward migration in 1960, first to the western mainland of the United States: UC San Diego in La Jolla, then NASA Ames Research Center, and then a long stint in the high desert as Director of the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico. Three of us, Jeff Taylor, Ed Scott, and Gary Huss (a student then) began our long and fruitful association with Klaus during his New Mexico years. In spite of New Mexico having an excellent climate for tennis, Hawai‘i had long been a favorite place for Klaus to visit, for fun and work (there is not always a difference in the two for Klaus), including some field and petrologic studies of Hawai‘ian volcanic rocks. So, after 24 years in the desert, Klaus moved even farther west, to paradise, convincing the university to set up faculty jobs for Taylor and Scott. Our creative and hard-working graduate student, Tim McCoy, came with us.
From the start, Klaus worked to establish cosmochemistry as a force at the University of Hawai‘i. Sasha Krot joined the group in 1994. It was clear from Sasha’s research with collaborators at other institutions during the 1990s that we were hampered by not having an ion microprobe in our lab. Klaus focused on the goal of establishing a secondary ion mass spectrometer facility, and staffing it. He doggedly pursued this goal, including when he was dean of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, eventually getting a commitment from the university for matching funds and two positions. Those two positions were eventually filled by Gary Huss and Kazu Nagashima. Gary led our efforts to write proposals to NASA and the Keck Foundation, resulting in the purchase of a Cameca 1280 SIMS, which now resides in the Keck Cosmochemistry Laboratory. We all helped, but it was Klaus’s vision, tenacity, and administrative savvy that made establishment of the lab a reality.
[ Klaus and Linde Keil (image courtesy of Linde Keil).]
We have had the pleasure of working with Klaus on a wide variety of extraterrestrial materials and problems, from acapulcoites to winonaites, angrites to ureilites, chondrite metamorphism to asteroidal volcanism, impact breccias to igneous intrusions, chondrule formation to asteroid accretion. Name a type of meteorite and Klaus has probably worked on it. Although his focus has been on asteroidal meteorites, Klaus has made significant contributions to understanding the evolution of the Martian crust through his participation in the Viking missions in the mid-1970s and, of course, to understanding the Moon through the Apollo missions and their treasure of lunar samples. Klaus and some of us and numerous students and postdocs studied the Apollo samples, from maria to highlands, igneous rocks to impact breccias. While at NASA Ames Research Center, Klaus connected with Ray Fitzgerald and Kurt Heinrich to make the first energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer for use in microanalysis. This device was the first to focus on terrestrial and extraterrestrial geological materials, and the first to use a solid state Si(Li) detector. Perhaps not so well known, Klaus played an important role in advising NASA on the design of the lunar curatorial facility that maintains and protects the priceless lunar collection.
Someone once remarked, “Everything Klaus touches turns to gold.” That may be true as Klaus is an alchemist. He makes his own gold through his imagination, ability to synthesize diverse data, and hard work. The real gold, though, belongs to all of us who have benefitted from his research, leadership, and mentorship, especially those of us who have had the pleasure and honor to work with him, talk science with him daily, and share his enthusiasm for rocks that fall from the sky.