Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 20
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  • Moore, John
  • Prescott, Glenn E.
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  • RICHARD K. MOORE 1923–2012


    RICHARD K. MOORE, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas and one of the most noted scientists in the field of radar remote sensing, died on November 13, 2012, at the age of 89. At the time of his death, Moore was widely recognized as a pioneering researcher in the radar remote sensing of the Earth, having had a prominent role in the founding research that defined this field. He spent more than 30 years as an electrical engineering faculty member at the University of Kansas (KU), where he founded the interdisciplinary Radar and Remote Sensing Laboratory. He continued to work until the year of his death, maintaining an office at KU with the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CRESIS).

    Richard, or Dick as he was generally called, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 13, 1923, to Louis D. and Nina M. Moore. He lived in the family home in Kirkwood through university graduation. His avid interest in ham radio led him to study electrical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis where he received his BS in 1943. He worked for RCA in Camden, New Jersey, as a radar engineer after graduation, where he met and married Wilma Schallau, also an engineer, in 1944.

    He joined the Navy that same year and served as an electronics and radar officer on the USS Rehoboth in the Pacific. In 1946, upon separation from the Navy, he attended graduate school at Washington University, St. Louis. His master’s thesis, in which he developed a very low frequency (VLF) antenna for submarines, was judged to be of doctoral quality, and he moved to Cornell to complete that work, while also researching tropospheric and ionospheric propagation. His son John wrote that when he was working on his doctorate, his work and the resulting thesis (development of the VLF antenna) became classified material.

    This meant he could not work on it during his regular work as a graduate student and could not even discuss it. Hence, he did research on tropospheric and ionospheric propagation as his public research and a way to earn money to raise his family and, of course, because of his interest in it dating from the start of his ham radio avocation.

    Upon receiving his PhD from Cornell in 1951, he moved his young family to Albuquerque and worked at Sandia Corporation while lecturing at the University of New Mexico (UNM). In 1955 he became chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department at UNM, remaining until 1962. He was offered the Black and Veatch Distinguished Professorship at the University of Kansas that year and he moved to Lawrence, Kansas.

    Two years after arriving at KU, Dr. Moore established the interdisciplinary Radar and Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) with support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Army. RSL pioneered the use of short-wavelength (microwave) radar systems for satellite-based remote sensing. He worked at RSL until his retirement in 1994. After retirement, he continued to conduct sponsored research projects until 2004.

    In the 30 years he spent at the University of Kansas, he developed powerful tools that transformed weather forecasting and climate change monitoring. His research resulted in scientific instruments being placed aboard NASA and other agency satellites for collecting data and improving understanding of the oceans and the atmosphere.

    Dr. Moore, in addition to serving his country in the Navy, performed classified research and served on classified government committees in the areas of defense and national intelligence throughout his career, including the CIA’s MEDEA committee and the National Research Council Advisory Committee on Undersea Warfare. Richard Moore was indeed one of the world’s most respected leaders in remote sensing.

    In 1957, before the US had even launched its first satellite, he coauthored a research paper that described how radar could map the Earth from orbit. He recognized the remote sensing potential of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) attached to a low-flying aircraft. Six years later, he was helping NASA launch the first generation of communications and weather satellites.

    Moore developed the concept of wind-vector scatterometry, with his colleague Bill Pierson, and the concept of scanning synthetic aperture radar (ScanSAR). Cal Swift, in his preface to a special issue of IEEE Transactions of Antenna and Propagation in Radio Oceanography, published in January 1977, stated that the persistence of Moore and Pierson in advocating the wind-vector scatterometry in spite of less-than-encouraging­ results from previous experiments has led to the development of more accurate aircraft and spacecraft instruments.

    These instruments were used to collect data under a variety of wind conditions and prove a concept that eventually resulted in satellite measurements of ocean winds. Now wind-vector data obtained from microwave scatterometers on satellites are being used in numerical weather forecasting.

    The wind scatterometer helped revolutionize weather forecasting by mapping wind fields over remote oceanic regions. This radar identifies hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones in the early stages of formation and monitors wind speed and other factors that influence weather. In addition, the ScanSAR concept was used in the Shuttle Imaging Radar mission for mapping the surface topography of the Earth, and wide-swath imaging was used in both the RADARSAT and ENVISAT satellites.

    The ScanSAR concept will continue to be used in forthcoming satellite radar missions. Dr. Moore received many accolades during his career. He was made a fellow of IEEE in 1962 for contributions to electromagnetic propagation, and he was named a life fellow of the IEEE in 1993.

    He was awarded an Outstanding Technical Achievement Award by the IEEE Council on Oceanic Engineering in 1978; that same year, he received the Alumni Achievement Award from his alma mater, the Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 1982 he received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, and he was awarded the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984. In 1989 he received the Irvin Youngberg Award in the Applied Sciences from the University of Kansas, and in 1993 he was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    His most prestigious awards were given in 1995 when he was honored with the Italian Center for Remote Sensing Award and the Australia Prize for Remote Sensing, given to a pioneer in the field of microwave-based satellite remote sensing, and a prolific inventor of new remote sensing devices that helped revolutionize mapping and monitoring of the Earth’s surface. Dick’s other professional interests and activities included the American Association of University Professors, American Society of Engineering Education, Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, Antennas and Propagation Society, Aerospace & Electronic Systems Society, Education Society, American Geophysical Union, International Union of Radio Science (URSI), and chairman, International Commission F.

    In his personal life, Dick was active in the community, regularly attending meetings of the Kiwanis Club, the Endacott Society (KU retirees association), and the Military Officers Association of America. His interest in amateur radio (W0GYS) was a lifelong love. He sponsored the University of Kansas Amateur Radio Club (K0KU) and served as its faculty advisor until he retired. He was an avid traveler, visiting every continent, either for science or personal interest. He was active in First Presbyterian Church and gave generously to many charities. As an educator and scholar, Dick Moore had an incredible impact on his colleagues and students at the University of Kansas.

    During his career, he authored or coauthored 10 books—including the foundational three-volume work on radar remote sensing, Microwave Remote Sensing: Active and Passive, with Fawaz Ulaby and Adiran Fung (Artech House Publishers, 1986)—and over 300 journal articles and conference publications; nearly all of these publications were the result of research conducted with his graduate students. He served as a graduate advisor for more than 100 students during his tenure at KU. During the late 1960s and early 1970s KU graduated more radar engineers that any university in the US, and Dick was responsible for that.

    These engineers and ­researchers went on to build or help build world-class radar research programs at the Universities of Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. For his dedication to the students of the university, Dick was awarded the Louise Byrd Graduate Educator Award in 1984. He and his wife also established the Richard K. & Wilma S. Moore Thesis Award to honor the best graduate thesis and doctoral dissertation in the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department.

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