Petrologist, Planetary Geologist, Author
In 1964, Bevan M. French joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD) as a planetary geologist and began research on terrestrial meteorite impact craters and the unique and durable shock-metamorphic effects produced in their rocks. His research helped establish over half a dozen terrestrial structures as the products of meteorite impact, particularly the large, complex, and ancient structure at Sudbury, Canada. He was a co-editor of Shock Metamorphism of Natural Materials (Mono Books, 1968), the proceedings of a 1966 conference which he helped organize, and a book which still remains a much-referenced basic text for current impact studies.
From 1969 to 1972, Dr. French was involved in NASA’s Apollo moon exploration program as a co-investigator on lunar samples from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. He also participated in astronaut training exercises at Sudbury for the Apollo 16 and 17 missions and studied shock-metamorphic effects in lunar samples returned by the Russian Luna-16 robot probe.
In 1972, Dr. French joined the National Science Foundation as Program Director for Geochemistry. He returned to NASA in 1975, serving at NASA headquarters (Washington, DC) in a variety of administrative and science-management positions: Discipline Scientist for Planetary Materials (administering research on lunar samples, meteorites, and cosmic dust), Advanced Programs Scientist, Discipline Scientist for Special Projects, and Program Scientist for the Mars Observer mission. In addition to his program duties, he gave numerous nontechnical lectures and published a large number of popular NASA and other publications on space science and lunar research, including The Moon Book (Penguin Books, 1977) and A Meeting with the Universe (NASA, 1982). He also continued his involvement with impact crater geology, publishing several articles on the large and controversial Vredefort and Bushveld Structures in South Africa.
Dr. French retired from NASA in 1994 and immediately returned to active research on terrestrial impact structures, first as a visiting professor at the University of Vienna (1994; returning in 1997 and 2001) and later as a research collaborator in the Smithsonian Institution Departments of Mineral Sciences (1994-2004) and Paleobiology (2004-present). He is currently involved in studies of two recently-recognized meteorite impact structures, Gardnos (Norway) and Rock Elm (Wisconsin), and he is exploring the more general problems of mineral deformation at low shock pressures, as well as the biological and geochemical significance of carbonaceous materials in impact-produced rocks. In 1998, the Lunar and Planetary Institute (Houston, TX), published Traces of Catastrophe his tutorial guidebook on impact structure and shock metamorphism for geologists and students.
In 2002, Dr. French was awarded the Barringer Medal, a major award of the international Meteoritical Society, for his work on meteorite impact craters. He lives in Chevy Chase, MD with his wife, Mary-Hill French.