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Agassiz, Alexander (17 December 1835–27 March 1910), marine biologist, oceanographer, and industrial entrepreneur, was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the son of Louis Agassiz, a zoologist, and Cécile Braun. Agassiz came to the United States in 1849, following the death of his mother in Germany. The domestic life of his parents had been marred by difficulties, and Alex moved to Massachusetts to join his father, who had become a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University after a distinguished career in Europe. The American experience came at a difficult stage in Alex Agassiz’s adolescence. He hardly knew his father, who had spent much time away from home on scientific projects....

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Beebe, William (29 July 1877–04 June 1962), naturalist, oceanographer, and zoological society executive, was born Charles William Beebe in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Charles Beebe, the owner of a paper company, and Henrietta Marie Younglove. In the late 1880s the family moved to the first of a succession of addresses in East Orange, New Jersey. Beebe, an active boy, early developed an interest in natural history, fostered in part by family travels to New England and eastern Canada. He learned to identify many kinds of wildlife, particularly birds. Young Charles (he dropped his first name in high school and was known ever after as William) entered East Orange High School in 1891 and spent five years there, taking, in addition to the regular course, six additional semester-long classes in the sciences. Once Beebe had determined on a career in natural history, his mother, a woman very ambitious for her son, made a point of seeing to it that he met most of the major natural scientists in New York City. Beebe attended Columbia University for several years (1896–1899), completing a series of courses in biology, zoology, and related subjects, but he did not receive a degree. Beebe later received two honorary doctorates of science, one from Tufts College, the other from Colgate University, both in 1928....

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Bigelow, Henry Bryant (03 October 1879–11 December 1967), zoologist and oceanographer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Smith Bigelow, a banker, and Mary Cleveland Bryant. Bigelow graduated from the Milton Academy at age sixteen. A year later he enrolled in Harvard College, from which he graduated cum laude with an A.B. in 1901, going on to earn an A.M. (1904) and a Ph.D. (1906). In 1906 he also married Elizabeth Perkins Shattuck; they had four children....

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Eckart, Carl Henry (04 May 1902–23 October 1973), physicist and oceanographer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of William E. Eckart, a journalist and Socialist advocate, and Lily Hellwig. An uncle, Otto Hellwig, who was an engineer, encouraged Carl’s early interest in science and mathematics....

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Heezen, Bruce (11 April 1924–21 June 1977), geologist and oceanographer, was born in Vinton, Iowa, the son of Charles Christian Heezen, a farmer and Benton County agricultural advisor, and Esther de Schirding. He attended public schools in Muscatine, Iowa, and completed a B.S. at the State University of Iowa in 1948. He received his M.S. from Columbia University in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1957. After hearing ...

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Hess, Harry Hammond (24 May 1906–25 August 1969), geologist and oceanographer, was born in New York City, the son of Julian S. Hess, a stockbroker, and Elizabeth Engel. In high school in New Jersey he was interested in foreign languages. In 1923 he entered Yale University, where he began with a major in electrical engineering but soon changed to geology, for which most of his courses were in the graduate department....

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Iselin, Columbus O’Donnell, II (25 September 1904–05 January 1971), physical oceanographer, was born in New Rochelle, New York, the son of Lewis Iselin, a banker, and Marie de Neufville. Iselin expected to join the family’s banking business and entered Harvard College intending to major in mathematics. Marine biologist ...

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Matthew F. Maury. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1335).

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Maury, Matthew Fontaine (14 January 1806–01 February 1873), naval officer and oceanographer, was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of Richard Maury and Diana Minor, farmers. In 1811 the family settled on a farm near the frontier village of Franklin in Central Tennessee. Matthew Fontaine Maury, who is usually known by all three of his names, attended country schools in the area, but in 1818 he enrolled in Harpeth Academy at Franklin. One of his older brothers was a naval officer, and in 1825 Maury received a midshipman’s warrant in the U.S. Navy. During the next nine years he sailed to Europe, around the world on the USS ...

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Pillsbury, John Elliott (15 December 1846–30 December 1919), naval officer, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of John Gilman Pillsbury and Elizabeth Wimble Smith. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in the class of 1867. The following year Pillsbury completed the requisite period at sea as a passed midshipman aboard the USS ...

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Revelle, Roger Randall Dougan (07 March 1909–15 July 1991), oceanographer, was born in Seattle, Washington, the son of William Roger Revelle, a lawyer and schoolteacher, and Ella Robena Dougan. In 1917 the family moved to Pasadena, California, where Revelle attended public schools and became interested in journalism. In 1925 he entered Pomona College (Claremont, Calif.), where he was attracted to geology by Professor Alfred O. Woodford. He received an A.B. in geology in 1929, had a year of graduate study at Claremont College, and in 1930 entered the University of California (Berkeley). In 1931 he married Ellen Virginia Clark; they had four children....

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Rossby, Carl-Gustaf Arvid (28 December 1898–19 August 1957), meteorologist and oceanographer, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Arvid Rossby, a construction engineer, and Alma Charlotta Marelius. He was a good student in the public schools in Stockholm and as a boy became interested in music, geology, and growing orchids. He attended the University of Stockholm in 1917 and 1918 and received the degree of ...

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Sverdrup, Harald Ulrik (15 November 1888–21 August 1957), oceanographer, was born in Sogndal (Sogn), Norway, the son of Johan Edward Sverdrup, a Church of Norway minister and teacher, and Maria Vollan. The boy’s mother died when he was young, and his father moved several times within Norway in church positions. Harald was educated by governesses until age fourteen....

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Thompson, Thomas Gordon (28 November 1888–10 August 1961), chemist and oceanographer, was born in Rose Bank, New York, the son of John Haslam Thompson and Mary Elizabeth Langdon. He grew up in Brooklyn. Thompson’s interest in chemistry began in 1906 when he was hired as an assistant chemist at the American Brass Company, where he worked until 1911. He then studied chemistry at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, receiving his B.A. in 1914. With the aid of a Carnegie scholarship from the British Iron and Steel Institute, he continued his studies at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1915, earning his M.S. that year and earning his Ph.D. in 1918. Thompson wrote his dissertation, “Preservation of Iron and Steel by Means of Passifying Factors,” under the guidance of Horace G. Byers....