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Bruce C. Murray

Bruce C. Murray
Born (1931-11-30)November 30, 1931
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died August 29, 2013(2013-08-29) (aged 81)
Oceanside, California, U.S.
Alma mater MIT – Ph.D. geology (1955)
Notable awards
Spouse Joan O'Brien
(divorced; 3 children)
Suzanne Moss
(2 children)
Seated on left with other Planetary Society Founders and enthusiasts in the 1970s.
"Murray Buttes" on Mars - steep knobs the Curiosity rover will traverse on its way to Mount Sharp (November 13, 2013).[1]

Bruce Churchill Murray (November 30, 1931 – August 29, 2013) was an American planetary scientist. He was a director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and co-founder of The Planetary Society.


  • Education and early life 1
  • Main career 2
  • Personal life and death 3
  • Awards and honors 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Education and early life

Murray received his Ph.D. in geology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955 and joined Standard Oil of California as a geologist. He served in the United States Air Force as a geophysicist, and the U.S. Civil Service before joining California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1960.[2]

Main career

At Caltech, Murray became an associate professor in 1963, a full professor in 1969, and a professor emeritus in 2001. He would later become professor emeritus of planetary science and geology.

Murray began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory(managed by/affiliated with Caltech) in 1960, and served as its director from April 1, 1976 to June 30, 1982.[3][4] He was an important force in promoting the recruitment and hiring of female engineers at the lab, where more women are employed today than any other NASA facility.[5] Murray became JPL's director at a time when space exploration budgets were shrinking; among other achievements, he saved the Galileo mission to Jupiter from the budget axe.[5]

Murray worked out the geologic history of Mars using photographs taken by Mariner 4 in 1965; he worked with Bob Leighton to accomplish this task. He applied similar photographic analysis when he served as chief scientist of Mariner 10. As he took over management of JPL, he expressed reservations about the Viking lander program, pointing out that the biological experiments included with the spacecraft were not sufficient to accomplish their stated goals.[5]

With Carl Sagan and Louis Friedman, Murray founded The Planetary Society. He also served a term as its chair.

Personal life and death

Murray was twice married. With his first wife, Joan O'Brien, he had three children. Murray and O'Brien divorced in 1970. In 1971, Murray married Suzanne Murray, with whom he had two children.[2]

Murray's cousin is former Speaker of the House Tom Foley.

Murray died at his home in Oceanside, California on August 29, 2013, from complications of Alzheimer's disease, aged 81.[5]

Awards and honors

Murray was the recipient of the 1997 Carl Sagan Memorial Award.

In 2004, Murray was awarded the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology in Telluride, Colorado.

Asteroid 4957 Brucemurray is named after him.

On November 13, 2013, NASA announced the names of two features on Mars important to two active Mars exploration rovers in honor of Murray: "Murray Ridge", an uplifted crater that the Opportunity rover is exploring; and "Murray Buttes", an entryway the Curiosity rover will traverse on its way to Mount Sharp.[1]


  1. ^ a b Webster, Guy; Brown, Dwayne (November 13, 2013). "Mars Rover Teams Dub Sites In Memory of Bruce Murray".  
  2. ^ a b Wilford, John Noble (August 29, 2013). "Bruce C. Murray, Who Helped Earth Learn of Mars, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  3. ^ Reports of the President and the Treasurer - John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Google Books (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation). 1973. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  4. ^ Schudel, Matt (August 30, 2013). "Bruce C. Murray, NASA space scientist, dies at 81". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Manning, Sue (August 29, 2013). "Former JPL chief Bruce Murray dies of Alzheimer's".  

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • JPL History
  • Murray's homepage
  • , August 20, 1989.Journey Into Space: The First Thirty Years of Space Exploration interview with Murray on Booknotes
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