Harry Y. McSween Jr. was a member of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville faculty from 1977 to 2016. He holds degrees from The Citadel (B.S.), University of Georgia (M.S.), and Harvard University (Ph.D.). He twice served as Head of the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences and twice as Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. He was named Distinguished Professor of Science by the College, and Chancellor’s Professor by the University.
Unlike most geologists, Dr. McSween's attention is drawn to rocks falling from the heavens rather than to those already underfoot. For nearly four decades NASA has funded his research on meteorites, and he has published hundreds of scientific papers dealing with meteorites and their implications for understanding the formation and evolution of the solar system. He was the first to recognize meteorites from Mars and has become a leading authority on Mars petrology and geology. He has also been involved in spacecraft missions – as co-investigator for the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Odyssey orbiter, and Dawn asteroid orbiter. He has been particularly interested in communicating the excitement of science to the public, and is the author of three popular books on planetary science, as well as textbooks in geochemistry and cosmochemistry.
He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was the 2013 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year, and recipient of the inaugural 2016 UT President’s Award. His research in meteoritics and planetary exploration has been recognized by the Order of the Silver Crescent (Governor of South Carolina, his home state), the Leonard Medal (Meteoritical Society), J. Lawrence Smith Medal (U.S. National Academy of Sciences), and the Whipple Award (American Geophysical Union). He is the namesake for asteroid 5223 McSween. He also served as the elected President of the Meteoritical Society and of the Geological Society of America – the only planetary geologist to hold that office.
He has taught courses in physical geology, mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, and planetary geoscience, and has directed 26 Master’s theses and 20 Doctoral dissertations. His teaching has been recognized by the University’s Alexander Prize, the College of Arts & Sciences Senior Faculty Teaching Award, and his department’s best teacher award (selected by students) 9 times.