Dr. Martin Prinz main content.

Dr. Martin Prinz

Marty Prinz passed away on December 16, 2000, after a long and gallant battle with cancer. He was born in New York, received his B.S. from City College, CUNY, his M.S. from Indiana University, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1961), working under Arie Poldervaart.  He joined the Department of Geology at Tufts University (1961-1968) as an Assistant Professor and rose to Associate Professor with tenure. In 1969, he gave up the security of tenure to become a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico, solely because he wanted to have the opportunity to work on the soon to be delivered Apollo lunar samples. From 1976 until his retirement in 1999, he was Curator at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York, and served as Chairman of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences from 1976-1988.

During his long and remarkably productive research career, Marty authored/co-authored over 135 refereed scientific papers and over 170 abstracts.  His contributions range from upper mantle studies of ultramafic nodules to early work on lunar samples returned during the Apollo Missions to detailed petrologic studies of nearly every meteorite group, including mesosiderites, basaltic achondrites, silicate inclusions in irons, angrites, polymict ureilites, brachinites, lodranites, and new chondrite groups and relationships among meteorite groups. He worked on and led numerous collaborative research projects tying together petrologic, geochemical and stable isotope data. One of his great joys was to explore and characterize new types of meteorites, delving into their formation and deciphering their significance for solar system evolution.

Marty also made enormous contributions to the American Museum of Natural History as an administrator and curator. He revitalized the Mineralogy Department, which at the time of his hire had no permanent staff and essentially no modern research equipment.   Under his leadership, the department increased from one to three curators, accrued support staff, post-doctoral fellows and students, developed research programs in meteoritics, mineralogy, petrology and geochemistry, and acquired major research equipment, including an electron microprobe.  Marty also took the view that the AMNH had a responsibility to maintain, and provide access to, a world class collection, and he devoted much effort to ensuring that "interesting" new meteorites were brought into the Museum's permanent collections.  He also devoted much time and effort to bringing earth and planetary sciences to the public through exhibitions.  His first foray was "Volcano" and, in 1981, he and his colleagues completed the magnificent "Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites".  Many of us saw this exhibit and its center piece, the 34 ton Cape York iron meteorite "Anighito", during the 1986 Meteoritical Society Meeting at the AMNH, whose organizing committee was chaired by Marty.

Marty was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of America, and the Meteoritical Society.  Just prior to his untimely death, and to his great joy, the International Astronomical Union named Asteroid 4595 in his honor Asteroid Prinz.

Marty was an enthusiastic scientist who liked to discuss science in the hallways, offices and at meetings. His door was usually open for discussions of science, movies, travel, heart­-to-hearts, and even a little gossip.  He was a gifted storyteller who enjoyed telling stories about the history of the AMNH and New York City.