In Memoriam: Murli Manghnani, geophysics professor

Murli Manghnani, emeritus professor in the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), died on August 6, 2023 at the age of 87 in his home country of India.

Dr. Manghnani, who joined the HIGP in 1963 as a geophysicist, focused his career on high-pressure mineral physics research. Among his most significant accomplishments, Manghnani discovered unique properties and structures of silicate melts in Earth’s mantle and core-related iron-rich melts. This work provided a fundamental understanding of the properties of small planetary cores, including properties of the liquids of Earth’s core.

“With a rare combination of deep interest, dedication, enthusiasm and collaborative spirit, Murli has been able to creatively help in establishing a world-class facility in high-pressure mineral physics research at UH Mānoa along with a cadre of faculty and researchers,” said Robert Wright, director of HIGP.

When Manghnani was 22 years old, he left Bombay, India, by ship on the Llyod Triestino Asia to begin his journey to the U.S. for graduate studies in geology at Montana State University, Missoula.  After completing his doctoral degree, Murli recalled being offered three free phone calls on his advisorʻs office phone to find a post-doctoral appointment. One of these was to Professor George P. Woollard of the University of Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, Woollard moved to Hawai’i to become the inaugural director of the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics, and Murli followed in 1963 to establish the High Pressure Mineral Physics Laboratory. The laboratory has long been recognized among the leading facilities for high-pressure geoscience and materials science research for more than four decades, with outstanding national and international acclaim and reputation. In the 1980s Dr. Manghnani served as the program director for the National Science Foundation’s Experimental and Theoretical Geophysics program. 

In 2017, Dr. Manghnani was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a distinction that honors scientists “for their outstanding contributions to scholarship and discovery in the Earth and space sciences” and expanding “the realm of human knowledge”. Murli received this honor for his pioneering experiments on the elastic and structural properties of the molten silicates that form Earthʻs mantle and the metal alloys that form the Earthʻs core.

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