The Mohole Project

In 1957 Roger and I were among a group that called themselves the American Miscellaneous Society (AMSOC). AMSOC promoted an attempt to drill through the ocean floor into the Earth's mantle. A test off Guadalupe Island successfully drilled through 200 m of sediments into the basalt in water 4,000 m deep, demonstrating the feasibility of "dynamic positioning." This MOHOLE project (Fig. 3) eventually failed because of poor Washington management but led some years later to the successful Ocean Drilling Program.

Ocean Leadership

The U.S. ocean program was then firmly in the hands of three men: Maurice Ewing, Columbus Iselin, and Roger Revelle. There has not been a comparable ocean leadership since those days.*

While Revelle served as a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography (N ASCO), the funds budgeted nationally for oceanography rose from S12 million in 1957 to S97 million in 1960. Roger played a major role in organizing the IGY and in forming the Scientific Committee for Ocean Research (SCOR) and the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), and then served as Chairman of a joint IOC/SCOR Committee on Climate Changes and the Ocean. These organizations continue to play an important role in international oceanography.

Roger enjoyed an international reputation as oceanogra-pher in the 1950s but became better known to the greater scientific community and to the public through his work for the National Academy of Sciences as a science spokesman with broad knowledge of the environment. He worked very hard behind the scenes to frame the important scientific questions and then to secure the resources to answer them. Policy makers looked to him for a reasonable assessment of which scientific problems should take priority. Scientists sought his advice and support to focus research and get it funded. Congressman Emilio Daddario (8) has remarked on Roger's "combined experience, intelligence and good judgment about issues."

Building the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), 1954-1961

In parallel with these developments came the beginnings of the UCSD. No oceanographic program, Roger said, could maintain intellectual excellence for more than a generation without an attachment to a great university. The obvious site was some 1,100 acres of largely undeveloped public land just to the north of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Fortuitously, Roger's initiative coincided with a new master plan for the

*Thts may have changed; in the last several years, Admiral (U.S. Navy, ret.) James Watkins has become a recognized national spokesman for ocean affairs.

Colloquium Paper: Münk Proc. Natl. Acad. Sei. USA 94 (1997)

ftg. 2. Gulf of California Expedition, 1939. (Left to Right) Erik Moberg, Roger Revelle, Seaman Andrew Boffinger, Richard Fleming (with binoculars), Machinist Bob MacDonald, George Hale. Lee Haines, Engineer Walter Robinson, Martin Johnson, and Love H. Miller. [Reproduced with the permission of the SIO Archives, UCSD.}

ftg. 2. Gulf of California Expedition, 1939. (Left to Right) Erik Moberg, Roger Revelle, Seaman Andrew Boffinger, Richard Fleming (with binoculars), Machinist Bob MacDonald, George Hale. Lee Haines, Engineer Walter Robinson, Martin Johnson, and Love H. Miller. [Reproduced with the permission of the SIO Archives, UCSD.}

University of California, which foresaw the need to establish two new campuses in southern California.

Roger had in mind a major university in the manner of The John Hopkins University or the University of Chicago, with a heavy concentration of graduate students. The plan ran into opposition by a 1956 University of California at Los Angeies

(UCLA) review committee, which proposed that UCSD should be permitted to offer oniy lower division undergraduate courses at first, and only after a later review to add upper division courses, but not a graduate program. We pointed out that Scripps had been granting Ph.D. degrees when UCLA was still a teacher's college.

Project Mohole
Fig. 3. MOHOLE project, aboard the CUSS I off Guadalupe island in 1961. (Left to Right) John Steinbeck, Josh Tracey. Unidentified. William Riedel, Roger Revelle, Walter Munk, Gustav Arrhenius. and Willard Bascom, examining specimen. Photograph by Fritz Goro, Life Magazine (© Time Inc.).

8278 Colloquium Paper: Münk

Roger (9) roasted them for trying to forestall competition:

The Committees on Educational Policy... were experts at seeing clouds no bigger than a man's hand. It was clear to them that a new graduate school would draw money away from their own campuses; it might even attract outstanding scientists They thought it would be nice to have an undergraduate school at La Jolla, managed by a farm team of dedicated teachers, which could provide well-trained new graduate students for their own laboratories.

Roger put in an enormous effort in recruiting faculty for his new school, originally housed on the Scripps Campus; among the recruits were Harold Urey, Joseph and Maria Mayer, Jim Arnold, David Bonner, Walter Eisasser, Martin Kamen, Bernd Matthias, and Bruno Zimm. The secret of Roger's recruiting success was not a secret at all. He put in a major effort to learn what these people really wanted to do and then went out to provide the opportunity for them to live their dream. But he was not unwilling to exercise some salesmanship. Judith and I were on the recruiting route, and Roger would end up at our home with an exhausted candidate in tow at cocktail time, saying, "And here is a typical faculty house."

There was at the time an unspoken covenant among La Jolla Realtors not to sell to Jews. Roger went out to break this covenant, realizing that it was incompatible with his vision of the university. He was somewhat aided by the fact that most members of the real estate community were not fundamentally opposed to enhancing their commissions.

The chairman of the University of California Board of Regents at the time was the oil magnate Edwin Pauley. Pauley wanted the campus in Balboa Park in downtown San Diego. Roger wanted it next to Scripps. Regent Pauley had commissioned a study that concluded that the aircraft noise associated with Miramar Naval Air Station would make the site 20% more expensive than that at Balboa Park. Roger had gotten hold of a previous report by that same architect dealing with the location of Scripps Hospital (under the same flight pattern and even closer to the Air Station) which concluded that the noise would not appreciably increase the cost!

Roger won that battle, but as it happened to King Pyrrhus of Epirus, he had won one too many. In 1961, when it came time to appoint the first chancellor, the Regents selected Herbert York. It was a major blow to Roger, reminiscent of the long delays in his appointment as Scripps Director.

The Exile

Roger determined that his continued presence on the campus would make ii very difficult for Herbert York to function effectively, so he left for what turned out to be a 14-year exile. President Kerr appointed Roger to the meaningless position as Dean of Research for the University of California statewide. Roger next became Science Advisor to Secretary of Interior Morris Udall and then was appointed Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Policy at Harvard University, a chair he held for just over a decade. Among his students was Benazir Bhutto and Albert Gore. Gore credited Roger with having aroused his interest in environmental problems.

Many years later, during the 1992 presidential campaign, Gore was accused of having misrepresented Roger's position on global warming. The problem arose in connection with an article first published in the Cosmos Club Journal, "What to Do About Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap." The cautionary admonition "look before you leap" is uncharacteristically tame for Roger, and it is my contention that it represented more the views of the other authors, Fred Singer and Chauncey Starr.

I cannot do justice to the many accomplishments during the exile era, but I need to mention one activity which goes back

Fig. 4. Revelle explaining core sample to roughneck aboard CUSS I in 1961. This is my favorite photograph of Roger; it shows his total attention to the person with whom he is speaking at the moment. Photograph by Fritz Goro, Life Magazine (© Time Inc.).

a long time: Rogers continuing love affair with India. Roger took many trips to India and served as an advisor to various government agencies on a broad range of topics, centered on food and population problems. I was amazed on a recent trip to learn of how many Indian careers and lives had been influenced by Roger.

Roger and Ellen thought of their Harvard years as some of the most fulfilling of their lives. Calling it an "exile" reflects my own provincial Scripps perspective.

Coming Home

In 1975 Roger returned to UCSD to become Professor of Science and Public Policy. For the next 15 years he taught courses in marine policy and population, and he continued to be active in oceanographic affairs. When in 1978 the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) decided to focus its international efforts on a few selected issues, Roger chaired the AAAS group that identified the build-up of heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere as one such issue. As a result, the AAAS Board created the Committee on Climate, and Roger served as its chairman for a decade. The Committee was responsible for the first effort to identify the costs and benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

He received the National Medal of Science from President George Bush in 1991

for his pioneering work in the areas of carbon dioxide and climate modifications, oceanographic exploration presaging plate tectonics, and the biological effects of radiation in the marine environment, and studies of population growth and global food supplies.

To a reporter asking why he got the medal, Roger (10) said, "I got it for being the grandfather of the greenhouse effect."

It is difficult to do justice to a man with such broad accomplishments. When questioned about his profession, Roger would reply "I am an oceanographer." But this was hardly restrictive because he defined the profession of oceanography as whatever anyone at Scripps does. This has saved me on one occasion. During one of the chronic Scripps space

Colloquium Paper: Munk

Colloquium Paper: Munk

FiG. 5. Roger in 1976, Photo bv Glasheen. (Negative AN24/ 41906/484/34, UCSD Special Collections.]

shortages, Director William Nierenberg surprised Judith and me in a SIO laboratory as we were using laser pulses to remove encrustation's from a renaissance statue. "What are you doing?" Bill asked. "I am doing oceanography," I replied.

A Personal Appreciation

Roger and I have collaborated on a number of papers: on a global compilation of the seasonal change in sea level, on an attempt to infer the melting of the Greenland ice cap from the slowing of the Earth's rate of rotation and the motion of the pole toward Greenland, and on a 1977 National Academy of Sciences report (11) in which we traced the partition CO2 among the atmosphere, ocean, and biosphere. Roger's way of working was anything but analytical; rather he followed a Sherlock Holmes procedure of eliminating one hypothesis after another. In doing his suras, he showed an accountant's revulsion for dropping nonsignificant digits.

But my thoughts of Roger are not particularly related to these joint publications. He was my friend for 50 years, I remember weekends in the Revelle cottage in Julian, and sailing in the Aegean. I remember all-night sessions of Roger and Harry Hess at the Cosmos Club. I remember 9 months in the South Pacific, with a luncheon hosted by the Crown Prince, now King, of Tonga. I remember sleepless nights with Roger and John Steinbeck on the drilling ship CUSS I in Mcxican waters prior to the demise of the MOHOLE Project.

Toward the end of his life, Roger's health deteriorated; he walked in pain and with some difficulty. One year before his death, I was visiting John Knauss, then Administrator of The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to seek help for the Heard Island Expedition, when Roger unexpectedly showed up. He had walked the endless corridors of the commerce building to lend his silent support. During the expedition, when ail the equipment was demolished in a gale on station in the South Indian Ocean, Roger sent a soothing message by fax: "Wish I were with you; and then I am glad I'm not." Roger was upset by a critical news article on the Heard Island Expedition published in Science (14) and wrote a letter to the editor starting with the words: "Shame on you" (15). It was to be the last thing Roger published (Fig. 5).

In an obituary for the Independent of London (12), the oceanographer Henry Charnock spoke for many of us when he noted that, "[f]or an informed view on earth science, and on its repercussions on the human predicament, he was in a class of his own."

Deborah Day at Scripps Archives is responsible for much of this material.

1. Revelle, R. (1956) The Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation: A Report to the Public (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC).

2. Sverdrup, H.. Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Letter to Comdr. Roger Revelle, Cosmos Club, Washington, DC, September 25,1947. Roger Revelle Papers (MC 6), Box 2, Folder 10. SIO Archives. UCSD.

3. Reveiie, R. Letter to Dean M. P. O'Brien, University of California. Berkeiev, November 7,1947. Roger Revelle Papers (MC 6), Box 2, Folder 10. SIO Archives, UCSD.

4. Fox, D., Hubbs, C., McEwen, G., Shepard, F. & ZoBell, C. Letter io Robert Sprou!, President of the University of California, Office of the President, Berkeley, April 12, 1950. S. V. "Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Part I: Directorship 1947-50." Bancroft Library, University Archives, University of California, Berkeiev.

5. Revelle, R. & Suess, H. E. (1957) Tellus 9, 18-27.

6. Revelle, R., Broecker, W„ Craig. H-, Keeling, C. D. & Smagor-insky, J. (1965) Restoring the Quality of our Environment: Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel, President's Science Advisory Committee (The White House, Washington, DC), pp. 111-133.

8. Daddario, E. Q. "The Reveiie Impact," Transcription of a speech delivered at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. March 10, 1984, p. 3. Accession 84-14, SIO Archives, UCSD.

9. Revelle, R. "On Starting a University," Manuscript prepared but not published by Daedalus, 1974. p. 3. Roger Revelle Papers (MC 6A), Box 158, Folder 19. SIO Archives, UCSD.

10. Lister, P., "Revelle Awarded National Medal of Science '90." San Diego Daily Transcript, June 27, 1990, p. 1A.

11. Revelle, R. & Munk, W. H. (1977) Energy and Climate (National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC), pp. 140-158.

12. Charnock, H., "Professor Roger Revelle," The Independent (London), August 5, 1991.

13. Day, D. "Memorandum of Conversation with Dr. Francis P. Shepard, July 27. 1981. SIO Archives, UCSD.

Vol. 94, pp. 8280-8283, August 1997

Colloquium Paper

This paper was presented at a colloquium entitled "Carbon Dioxide and Climate Changeorganized by Charles D. Keeling, held November 13-15, 1995, at the National Academy of Sciences, Irvine, CA.

Continue reading here: Equilibration of the terrestrial water nitrogen and carbon cycles

Was this article helpful?

0 0