[Memoirs]: Colin Trevor Pillinger. 9 May 1943—7 May 2014

Wright, Ian (2024). [Memoirs]: Colin Trevor Pillinger. 9 May 1943—7 May 2014. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbm.2023.0032


Colin Pillinger was a larger-than-life planetary scientist with an infectious enthusiasm for science. He was a founding member of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at the Open University in Milton Keynes. He was a mass spectroscopist who applied these techniques with great success to the study of extraterrestrial rock samples from both meteorites and the Moon. He helped identify a class of meteorite found on Earth that originated from Mars. In turn, this led to leadership of the Beagle 2 Mars lander project, which was designed to take scientific instruments to Mars in order to search for evidence of past life. Against all odds, the landing on Mars was successful, but communication with the lander was never established. Colin was a brilliant innovator, both in his science and in adopting a somewhat unconventional approach to funding the ambitious Beagle 2 project. He enjoyed the fact that, even though it was possible to purchase off-the-shelf instrumentation, the truly creative aspect of his analytic method was in the details of how it was applied, for which the rule book was still being written. Throughout his career he continued to ride the wave of new developments and was always keen to push the limits. He was a brilliant communicator, always full of engaging enthusiasm.

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