Apollo 11 Remembered

President Kennedy’s memorable statement in 1962 that “We choose to go to the Moon” ushered in a remarkable period of scientific advancement not just in the USA but worldwide as the Americans shared their experience with the scientific community around the globe. Durham University was fortunate to be selected as one centre for this research programme and Grenville Holland was one of those lucky to be part of it. From the first moment the demand was excellence, yet the equipment available was far from excellent (Durham University did not even have a computer and Oxford’s computer was a temperamental colossus built with valves). The analytical equipment was in its infancy and was slow and cumbersome but, with care, still capable of achieving good results. The talk described how the difficulties were overcome and provided results that have stood the test of time, results that, with the benefit of hindsight, already told us how the Moon had been formed. Some of the lighter moments were also be recounted.

The Transactions article accompanying this talk is available online.


Dr Grenville Holland, Durham University

Dr Grenville Holland was educated at Oxford and Yale, where he specialised in geochemistry. His D.Phil at Oxford was on the Geochemistry of the Lewisian of NW Scotland supervised by his colleague and lifelong friend Professor Richard Lambert.

Grenville moved to Durham in 1965 where he joined a friendly and supportive Department led by Professor Sir Kingsley Dunham FRS. The arrival of Professor Sir Malcolm Brown FRS in 1967 ushered in the Apollo research programme and Grenville was chosen to be part of the team to provide his geochemical and analytical expertise with X-Ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF). The research with NASA progressed well and Durham was retained as a centre for the entire Apollo programme, ending in 1977 with 21 publications. Beyond the Apollo programme Grenville’s own research interests were widespread and following his research in the Scottish Highlands and Tertiary province he undertook assignments the West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Turkey and Canada. Always an advocate for XRF in 1985 he introduced ICPS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Source Mass Spectrometry) to Durham as a new, complementary and very powerful analytical tool and edited 8 books for the Royal Society of Chemistry on this technique.

Outside of academia Grenville was a founder member of the SDP in 1981, became a County, District and eventually Parish Councillor for 32 years starting in 1987, being elected Mayor of Durham City in 2008. For 34 years he was President of Durham University Cricket Club which won many awards over those years and nurtured 2 future England captains.

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