Ex­plorer-sci­en­tist Wal­ter Munk, `Ein­stein of the Oceans,' dies at 101

Tulsa World - - Our Lives -

SAN DIEGO — Wal­ter Munk, the high-spir­ited sci­en­tist-ex­plorer whose in­sights on the na­ture of winds, waves and cur­rents earned him the nick­name the “Ein­stein of the Oceans,” died Fri­day. He was 101.

Munk died of pneu­mo­nia at Se­iche, his sea­side home near the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Diego, a cam­pus he helped make fa­mous through decades of work at the Scripps In­sti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy.

His death was an­nounced by his wife, Mary Munk. “We thought he would live for­ever, she said. “His legacy will be his pas­sion for the ocean, which was end­less.”

Munk was al­ways in or around wa­ter, try­ing to fig­ure out how waves broke, where cur­rents moved and why changes in the ocean's makeup af­fected Earth's cli­mate.

He greatly im­proved surf fore­cast­ing, help­ing Amer­i­can troops land more safely dur­ing the D-Day in­va­sion in World War II. He mon­i­tored a hy­dro­gen bomb blast from a tiny raft in the early 1950s and was show­ered with ra­dioac­tive fall­out.

And he was among the first wave of sci­en­tists to pull on scuba gear and ex­plore won­drous and wicked oceans.

Munk also was end­lessly cu­ri­ous about marine life, es­pe­cially fish — and he even­tu­ally had a weird one named af­ter him. It was a species of devil ray that has an ex­traor­di­nar­ily abil­ity to leap out of the wa­ter — giv­ing the im­pres­sion that it can fly.

“Wal­ter was the most bril­liant sci­en­tist I have ever known,” said Pradeep Khosla, UC San Diego's chan­cel­lor. “I stand in awe at the im­pact (he) had on UC San Diego, from his count­less dis­cov­er­ies that put the univer­sity on the map as a great re­search in­sti­tu­tion, to his global lead­er­ship on the great sci­en­tific is­sues of our time.”

Mar­garet Leinen, di­rec­tor of Scripps Oceanog­ra­phy, said: “Wal­ter Munk has been a world trea­sure for ocean sci­ence and geo­physics. He has been a guid­ing force, a stim­u­lat­ing force, a provoca­tive force in sci­ence for 80 years. While one of the most dis­tin­guished and hon­ored sci­en­tists in the world, Wal­ter never rested on his ac­com­plish­ments. He was al­ways in­ter­ested in spark­ing a dis­cus­sion about what's com­ing next.”

Munk was born on Oct. 19, 1917, and grew up in Aus­tria, where he shrugged off stud­ies dur­ing his high school years to in­dulge his great pas­sion — skiing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.