Thomas Andrew “Tim” Mutch (1931-1980), professor of geological sciences, was born in Rochester, New York, on August 26, 1931. He received an A.B. degree from Princeton in 1952, an M.S. from Rutgers in 1957, and a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1960. He came to Brown as assistant professor in 1960, and was promoted to associate professor in 1965, and professor in 1970. He was chairman of the Department of Geological Sciences from 1968 to 1971. His field was planetary geology, and he published an important text, Geology of the Moon, in 1970, and also Geology of Mars in 1976, and The Martian Landscape in 1978. In 1969 he was chosen as a member of the team of NASA scientists planning a trip to Mars. He participated in the design of the special camera mounted on Viking Lander I, which went into orbit around Mars in 1976 and dropped the lander craft which beamed to Earth the first photographs taken from the surface of Mars. Mutch had designed the camera on the lander craft with the help of Bill Patterson in the Physics Department, and he directed the photographing of the planet. He received a NASA medal for scientific achievement in 1977. From 1972 to 1975 he taught a Modes of Thought course called “Exploration.” The course in which students read journals of explorers whetted the appetites for real exploration, and in 1978, after much planning and a preliminary climbing trail on Mount Olympus in Washington State, Mutch and 32 students and professors attempted the climb of Devistan, a 21,904 mountain in the Himalayas. Twenty-four of the party reached the summit. One, a biology research associate named Paul Palatt, lost his life when he was swept off a bridge.
In 1979 Mutch took a leave of absence to serve as associate administrator for space science at NASA. On October 5, 1980, while leading an expedition of six persons, including four Brown alumni, in climbing Mount Nun in the Himalayas, he fell while descending from the summit. As his injuries did not permit his being moved, his companions Craig Heimark ’78 and Thomas Binet ’78 cared for him during the night and on the next morning chipped out a ledge on the ice to hold him while they went to get more equipment. When they returned, Mutch had apparently been swept away. On October 22, 1980, the American Astronomical Society Eagle Award was bestowed upon him was awarded posthumously. On January 7, 1981, the Viking Lander 1 Spacecraft was named for him and a plaque prepared to be placed on the craft when the first manned mission lands on Mars was inscribed: “Thomas A. Mutch Memorial Station. Dedicated to the memory of Tim Mutch, whose imagination, verve, and resolve contributed greatly to the exploration of the solar system.” A NASA colleague, James Martin, said of him, “Tim was at the top of the mountain in everything he did.”