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Hap McSween Named to National Academy of Sciences

Harry Y. “Hap” McSween, Jr., Chancellor’s Professor emeritus in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. McSween is one of 120 members from around the world newly named to the academy, which recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

“This is an unexpected but welcome surprise. With this honor comes responsibility, and the National Academy of Sciences advises the nation on problems where scientific perspectives are important,” said McSween. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to participate.”

McSween joined UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1977. He served twice as head of the department and also served on two separate occasions as interim dean of the college.

“I have had the privilege of working with Hap when he served his second stint as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He applied the same care and insight to his administrative duties as he did to his work as a planetary scientist,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor John Zomchick. “His dedication to his profession and to this campus has been an inspiration to all. And not only on our campus—Hap also has the distinction of being the only one of our faculty to have been recognized with the SEC Professor of the Year Award, in 2013. He is a true servant leader in all he does, a true Volunteer.”

For 40 years, NASA continuously funded McSween’s research on meteorites, and he has published more than 300 scientific papers dealing with meteorites and their implications for understanding how the solar system formed and evolved. He was one of the original proponents of the idea that a handful of unusual meteorites came from Mars, and he has worked extensively on Martian meteorites.

McSween is also involved in planetary exploration. He was a member of the science teams for the Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft missions. He was a co-investigator for the Mars exploration rovers, which operated for decades, and for the Dawn spacecraft mission, which studied asteroids Vesta and Ceres from orbit. He is presently a co-investigator for the THEMIS instrument on the Mars Odyssey mission, which is mapping the Martian surface from orbit.

McSween is particularly interested in communicating the excitement of science to the public. He has lectured extensively and is the author of three popular books introducing planetary science as well as textbooks on geochemistry, cosmochemistry, and planetary geoscience.

McSween has been recognized with the Leonard Medal of the Meteoritical Society, the J. Lawrence Smith Medal of the US Academy of Sciences, and the Whipple Award of the American Geophysical Union. He is the only planetary scientist to have been elected president of the Geological Society of America. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America. He is also the eponym of asteroid 5223 McSween.

“I am pleased to welcome all of our new members, and I look forward to engaging with them in the work of the National Academies,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Those elected bring the total number of active members to 2,461 and the total number of international members to 511. International members are nonvoting members of the academy with citizenship outside the United States.

McSween joins Dan Simberloff, Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science in UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who was the university’s first member to be elected to the NAS.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,