Ralph Sonny Clary, Meteorite Hunter And Philanthropist, Makes Important Donation To British School KidsMonday, August 24th, 2009
When a plea from a British school teacher was posted to an international science listserve, Nevada meteorite hunter Ralph “Sonny” Clary made the educator’s seemingly impossible request come true.
In May of 2009, Matthew Smith a teacher in Liverpool, England sent an email to an online forum devoted to meteorites. With a very small acquisitions budget, Mr. Smith was hoping to acquire a few space rocks, to assist with presentations for his students. Sonny Clary, a highly experienced meteorite hunter based in Nevada had just the thing.
In 2007 Sonny made an extraordinary discovery on an ancient dry lake bed in the American Southwest. While scouting for possible hunting locations he came across a debris field of stone meteorite fragments. He collected numerous pieces and donated representative samples to academia, so the new meteorite could be studied and classified.
After reading Mr. Smith’s request, Sonny packed up more than 90 of the meteorites he’d found, and shipped them to the UK—as a cosmic gift.
When asked how much the meteorites were worth, Sonny replied: “I feel the true value of these meteorites is being lucky enough to hunt for and find them, and being able to share that excitement with the students by donating to their school and allowing them to experience holding and owning a rock from the asteroid belt. This may help spark the next generation of meteorite enthusiasts.”
He is modest indeed. In total, the meteorite specimens that Sonny donated weighed about five pounds. A conservative estimate would put their retail value at $2,000.
Mr. Smith will be writing an article about Sonny’s generous donation for an upcoming issue of Meteorite magazine. The quarterly science journal is published by the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences in Fayetteville, but the editorial team, Nancy and Dr. Larry Lebofsky, are Tucson residents.
Looking at the photographs of the enthralled English schoolchildren holding their new meteorites reminded me of something Alexis R. Faust, educator and executive director of the Flandrau Science Center said to me during a recent visit: “It gives you a different perspective on the world when you see it through the eyes of children. It’s rejuvenating.”
Sonny Clary is a great example of how one individual can get a classrom full of children excited about science. Those look like some happy kids to me, and I can only imagine how amazed I would have been—when I was a school boy in England back in the 1970s—if an American adventurer had mailed me a space rock.
My compliments to Sonny.