Lasting Memories

Ronald J.P. Lyon
Jan. 15, 1928-Jan. 17, 2023
Stanford, California

Ronald J.P. Lyon, a Stanford University geologist and pioneer in geological remote sensing, died peacefully at his Stanford, California home on January 17, 2023, a day after celebrating his 95th birthday with his family.

Born January 15, 1928 in Northam, Western Australia, Ron was the first of five children born to Hugh and Marjorie Lyon. At age seven, Ron’s life changed dramatically when his father died suddenly, leaving his mother with five young children.

Because he had shown academic talent early, Ron was sent to live with relatives for schooling. Summers were spent helping out at his Uncle Phil’s sheep farm. Phil became a surrogate father and taught Ron farming practices while urging him to use his eyes and be aware of the land. Ron believed that his work in geology and geobotany was significantly enhanced by Phil’s teachings.

During high school, Ron attended Perth Technical College where a gifted teacher sparked his interest in geology. The class took many trips, cementing Ron’s love for field trips and the outdoors in general. He went on to the University of Western Australia, receiving a B.Sc. Honours Degree in 1949. Following two years as a mining geologist, Ron was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the University of California at Berkeley where he earned a Ph.D in 1954. After a brief stint in exploration at a mine in England, Ron worked as a mining mineralogist in Melbourne at Australian science agency CSIRO, and later at Kennecott Research in Salt Lake City. He returned to California in 1959 for geochemistry at SRI. Later he was a senior researcher at NASA Ames before joining the Stanford Earth Science Faculty in 1965. At Stanford Ron taught Remote Sensing and Mineral Exploration for 36 years.

In 2001 the U.S. Department of the Interior and NASA presented the annual William T. Pecora Award to Ron, recognizing his career accomplishments, including his “outstanding and sustained scientific, educational, and professional leadership in geological remote sensing.” This award was Ron’s proudest achievement.

The award described Ron as a true pioneer of geological remote sensing, with an impactful career spanning more than 40 years. Perhaps best known for his research on thermal-infrared analysis of minerals, he also addressed a range of other significant topics, including the development and evaluation of instruments for early space satellite missions, the application of remote sensing to geology and mineral studies, and the integration of remote sensing and geographic information systems. His scientific contributions appeared in more than 100 books, journals, and conference proceedings.

During Ron’s academic career at Stanford he launched many students on successful national and international remote sensing careers. He became Professor Emeritus in 1993, and continued teaching his Measurement of the Environment class until 2002. In addition to being a well-regarded scientist and educator, Ron was an excellent ambassador for geologic remote sensing—well known for his sense of humor and generosity in sharing his perspectives.

In retirement Ron stayed busy sailing, lecturing on Stanford Travel Study trips, writing memoirs, leading trips for friends and relatives, and, his favorite, enjoying Pajaro Dunes, CA beach trips with family and friends.

Ron is survived by his wife Beth Lyon; sons, John (Lynn) and Peter (Meridith) Lyon; daughter Anne (Tim) Hoffman; grandchildren Patrick (Kelly), Ian (Jess), Sarah-Frances and Ben Lyon; Emma (Zack) Geers; Nick, Lizzie and Molly Hoffman; great-grandson Connor Lyon; and sister Barbara (Charles) Wallsmith. Another son, David, died in 2007.

In lieu of flowers the family suggest any gifts in Ron’s name be made to Mission Hospice, Ladera Community Church, or Second Harvest Silicon Valley.