Ursula Marvin

Ursula Marvin displaying her Antarctic gear
Ursula Marvin displaying her Antarctic gear
Credit: Charles Hanson

Occupation: Planetary Geologist

Year born: 1921

Research Areas: Meteorites, Moon Rocks


"I really would not exchange for anything our work in Brazil and Angola, or the thrill of seeing those first samples from the Moon, or of spotting black rocks on the Antarctic."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine, March 2018


Early Life

Ursula Marvin was born in Vermont, and grew up in New Hampshire, USA. She loved being outdoors but did not discover her passion for geology until she went to university to study history. She asked to change her degree major to Geology, but her professor refused and told her she should learn how to cook. Instead, Ursula took extra geology, maths and physics courses and went on to earn a PhD in Geology from Harvard University.

Career Highlights

Ursula wrote the book ‘Continental Drift: Evolution of a Concept’ and authored over 160 research papers. Her research concentrated on studying meteorites and pieces of the Moon brought back to Earth by the Apollo missions.

Ursula was part of three research trips to the Antarctic and the first woman on the American team to do research there. On two of the trips, she hunted for meteorites. On the third trip, she looked for evidence of the impact that led to the extinction of dinosaurs. Ursula also studied the Allan Hills A81005 meteorite, the first meteorite from the Moon to be found on Earth.


A small mountain in Antarctica is named after her, Marvin Nunatak, as well as an asteroid, Asteroid Marvin.