Dr John Lovering AO

1930 – 2023


John Lovering

Professor John Lovering
1930 – 2023.

Professor John Francis Lovering died in Melbourne, in early January 2023.

John Lovering was one of Australia’s top geologists and he had a special interest in lunar samples.

Having grown up in Sydney, and with early experience in mineralogy and petrology as an assistant curator at the Australian Museum, John completed a BSc (Hons) and an MSc at the University of Sydney, and in 1956 was awarded a PhD at Caltech.

On his return to Australia, he took up a position at the Australian National University in Canberra, becoming senior fellow in Geophysics and Geochemistry (1964 - 1969). From 1969 he was Professor of Geology at the University of Melbourne.

John's pioneering work of hard rock analysis using electron microprobes led to him be selected as one of the principal investigators for the lunar samples returned by Apollo 11.


John Lovering

Extract from page 231 of the NASA Apollo 11 Press Kit, 06 July 1969.


During the Apollo 11 mission, Dr Peter Pockley, Head of the ABC’s Science Unit, conscripted John to join him and several other experts in the ABC’s William Street, Sydney, radio studio. There, Dr Lovering interpreted what he was seeing on the video coming from the Moon.


John Lovering

Article from page 4 of the Sydney Sun, Tuesday 22 July 1969 – the day after the Apollo 11 EVA.

John Lovering

Continued on page 6.

John Lovering

Appreciation for ABC Radio’s coverage – from Melbourne’s The Age newspaper, Friday 25 July 1969.


In late September 1969, once the Apollo 11 samples were released from quarantine, Dr Lovering travelled to Houston to hand carry his precious allocation back to Australia. As he arrived at Melbourne Airport, news came of the fall of the Murchison Meteorite in regional Victoria. It was a carbonaceous chondrite – a very primitive class of meteorite, rich in organic compounds.

So, while undertaking the analysis of the lunar samples, John was also busy looking at samples of that ancient meteorite and explaining its significance to the media.

John and his wife Kerry were among the invited guests at the Luncheon to honour the Apollo 11 crew in Sydney on 1st November 1969.

Attendance at Lunar Conferences in Houston followed over many years, as well as research into other meteorites and also samples from all the lunar landing missions. He and his family were present for the launch of Apollo 17 which carried Harrison Schmitt, a geologist, to the Taurus-Littrow region of the Moon.

Professor Lovering was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in The Queen's Birthday 1993 Honours List, and also served as Vice Chancellor and Professor of Geology at Flinders University in Adelaide.

His many interests included Antarctic research, and protecting the environment (with a five-year stretch as President of the Murray Darling Basin Commission), but the Apollo days held a special place in his memories.

In July 2009, we were privileged to have John and Kerry join the celebrations in Canberra for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.


Click for a 6'35" 3.4MB mp3 audio file.

On 21 July 2009, ABC Radio 666 in Canberra broadcast live from the 40th anniversary luncheon at the Southern Cross Club’s ballroom in Woden.

In this clip, Genevieve Jacobs speaks with Professors John Lovering and Ross Taylor.

With thanks to Genevieve Jacobs and ABC Radio 666 Canberra.


In 2011, the ABC’s Robyn Williams interviewed John about his life and work. (external link)