Richard K. Moore in Memoriam: Remembering a great scientist and innovative researcher


By Tyler Wieland & Vicky Diaz-Camacho
Winter 2014

Richard Moore

Distinguished scientist and researcher Richard K. Moore, Ph.D. died Nov. 13, 2012, but left a series of innovative discoveries and an unsurpassed legacy at the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets at KU.

Moore’s work with radars began in 1944, when he joined RCA as a radar engineer in Camden, N.J. He then became an electronics and radar officer for the Navy from 1944 until 1946. He attended graduate school at Washington University, St. Louis, where he invented the VLF antenna for submarines in his master’s thesis.

Moore completed his doctoral degree at Cornell University in 1951 and following graduating served as a lecturer at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., where he became Chairman of the Electrical Engineering department in 1955.

Moore joined the University of Kansas faculty in 1962 after he was offered the Black & Veatch Distinguished Professorship. During his time at KU he started the interdisciplinary Remote Sensing Laboratory where he worked until his retirement in 1994. He completed extensive work in theoretical and experimental microwave remote sensing of the earth and remained a visionary throughout his life. 

“When I retired in 1994, I continued running sponsored projects until 2004, and still work with our Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets one afternoon a week,” Moore wrote in his biography.
His dedication to the students of the University of Kansas garnered him the Louise E. Byrd Graduate Educator Award in 1984 and the Irving Youngberg Award in the Applied Sciences in 1989. Moore established the Richard K. & Wilma S. Moore Thesis Award to honor the best graduate thesis and doctoral dissertation in the EECS department.

“In addition to his technical and scientific accomplishments, Moore served as the graduate advisor of more than 100 students during his tenure at the University of Kansas,” said Prof. Gogineni, who is also Director of CReSIS. “He encouraged his students to explore and pursue new ideas.”

Moore was made a Life Fellow of IEEE in 1962 for contributions to electromagnetic propagation and engineering administration. He was awarded an Outstanding Technical Achievement Award by IEEE COE in 1978 and received a Distinguished Achievement Award by IEEE GRSS in 1982. He was awarded the IEEE Centennial Medal in 1984.

His additional professional accomplishments include the Australia Prize for Science and a Remote Sensing Award from Italian Center, both awarded in 1995. Moore authored and co-authored 10 books and over 300 journal articles and conference publications, and he and his brother were the only brothers ever to receive a place in the National Academies.

The scientist’s research interests included microwave remote sensing of atmosphere, ocean, land, ice and planetary surfaces, radar systems, and radio wave propagation. Prof. Sivaprasad Gogineni credits Moore for developing the concept of wind-vector scatterometry together with Bill Pierson. Moore also developed the concept of scanning Synthetic Aperture Radar (ScanSAR).  Now, wind-vector data obtained from microwave scatterometers on satellites are being used in numerical weather forecasting. Moore’s ScanSAR concept was used in the Shuttle Imaging Radar missions for mapping the surface topography of the earth, and wide-swath imaging was used in both the RADARSAT and ENVISAT satellites. The ScanSAR concept developed by Moore will also be used in several forthcoming satellite radar missions.

Gogineni said Moore strongly advocated the use of ultra-wideband FM-CW radars for characterization of snow over sea ice and other applications. Today ultra-wideband FM-CW radars developed at the University of Kansas are being used for airborne measurements of the thickness of snow on sea ice and mapping of internal layers in polar firn by aircraft operated by NASA as a part of Operation IceBridge.

“Moore was instrumental in developing KU’s excellence in microwave remote sensing of the earth and made outstanding and lasting contributions to the field,” Gogineni said.

Special Memorial Services

In October of 2013, the Department of Radio Science and Engineering held the U.R.S.I. Commission F Microwave Signature 2013 in Finland, a specialist symposium on microwave remote sending of the earth, oceans and atmosphere. On Wednesday, Oct. 30, Gogineni and Martti Hallikainen, session chairs, held a session to remember the late researcher. The meeting was a forum open to discuss achievements in instrumentation, methodology and applications in the field, according to the U.R.S.I. pamphlet.

Several months later, on January 9, 2014, Moore’s memory and contributions to the field were again honored at the USNC-URSI National Radio Science Meeting.

Approximately 25 colleagues, friends and admirers of Professor Moore’s attended the memorial service. They shared his accomplishments and discussed the work he accomplished throughout his lifetime.

Rededication of Mercury Room

This fall, CReSIS will rededicate the Mercury Room of Nichols Hall, located on the University of Kansas’s west campus, to Moore. It will be known as the Richard K. Moore Conference Room.