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Ralph B. Baldwin (1912–2010)

Published onMay 01, 2019
Ralph B. Baldwin (1912–2010)

Dr. Ralph Belknap Baldwin died peacefully on October 23, 2010, at age 98. He was a Naples, Florida, resident since retiring in 1984 as Chairman of the Board of the Oliver Machinery Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Born on June 6, 1912, he graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in 1934, an M.S. in 1935, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy (Physics) in 1937. He taught astronomy at the Universities of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Northwestern. Baldwin received three honorary degrees, an LLD from Michigan in 1975, an ScD from Grand Valley State University in 1989, and an ScD from Aquinas College in 1999. During World War II he was a Senior Physicist at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, helping develop the radio proximity fuze. After the war he returned to Grand Rapids and joined Oliver Machinery Company where he became its President in 1970.

Baldwin's most important work was in astronomy. His studies proved that the craters on the Moon were produced by the impacts of large and small asteroid-like bodies rather than volcanic in origin. Baldwin's early work culminated in his book, "The Face of the Moon" (1949), which may properly be considered the generating force behind modern research in both terrestrial impact craters and lunar surface features. He followed up his original work with a second book, "The Measure of the Moon" in 1965. Baldwin was a Fellow in the Meteoritical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada made him an Honorary Member. He was one of only two scientists who have received both the Barringer and the Leonard Medals from the Meteoritical Society. He received the G.K. Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America and the J. Lawrence Smith Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.

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