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Subject: Clifford Frondel, 95, Mineralogist

studied moon rocks and kidney stones
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Date Posted: November 18, 2002 4:18:33 EDT

Dr. Clifford Frondel, a Harvard mineralogist who was among the first people on earth to view rocks brought back from the moon, died on Tuesday in a nursing home in Winchester, Mass. He was 95.

The cause was complications from Alzheimer's disease, his wife said.

As a scientist recruited by NASA to study the moon rocks brought back by Apollo 11 astronauts, Dr. Frondel was present when a box containing 48 pounds of rocks from the Sea of Tranquillity was opened in Houston on July 25, 1969.

"It's basalt! It's igneous!" Dr. Frondel exclaimed upon examining the rocks.

At the time, no one had known what to expect, Dr. Carl Francis, who succeeded Dr. Frondel as curator of the Harvard Mineralogical Museum in 1977, said.

"Basically, what he said means that you don't have to start over to understand lunar geology," Dr. Francis explained. "It's similar to work we have done here on earth."

Still, the authorities supervising the study were not taking any chances. When Dr. Frondel was exposed to lunar dust later that year while he was researching samples from the Apollo 12 mission, he was quarantined for two weeks.

"They worried that if there was some kind of life on the moon and it leaked into the environment, it could have devastating consequences," Dr. Francis said.

But Dr. Frondel's wife, Judith, 92, said she had not been worried about her husband's health when told about the quarantine.

"I thought to myself: `He only packed for three days. He doesn't have enough underwear for two weeks,' " she recalled in an interview.

Dr. Frondel, who was born in New York, married Judith Weiss in 1949. They had one daughter, Barbara Frondel, 52, who lives in Israel. Dr. Frondel is also survived by a sister, Martita van Ness.

Mrs. Frondel, also a mineralogist, said she had met her husband through work. Eventually, she helped in his laboratory at Harvard, where he was a professor from 1939 to 1977.

"He always believed that his teaching was as important as his research," Mrs. Frondel said.

Over the years, Dr. Frondel was credited with discovering 48 new types of minerals. He has had two minerals, Cliffordite and Frondelite, named in his honor.

During World War II he worked with the Army Signal Corps to make quartz oscillator plates in walkie-talkies more efficient. The later application of that research is evident in the use of quartz timing devices in watches.

Dr. Frondel did influential work applying research methods used in mineralogy to other fields. He worked with Dr. Edwin L. Prien to develop a method of detecting kidney stones through X-ray technology.

Dr. Frondel also helped create spectrochemical methods to find art forgeries.

He was the third American geologist to be accepted to Italy's national academy of science, and was recognized by the scientific community around the world.

"He is a giant in 20th-century mineralogy," Dr. Francis said.

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