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#REDIRECT [[Maurice Ewing]]
'''William Maurice Ewing'''(May 12, 1906 – May 4, 1974) was an American geophysicist and
== Biography ==
''Maurice Ewing Dolores Proubasta, The Leading Edge Mar 1991, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 15-20''
SEG’s [[Maurice Ewing Medal]], created in 1977, recognizes individuals whose
lifework, like the eponym’s, has given shape and substance to the science and
profession of exploration geophysics. It has been estimated that Ewing’s
contributions tripled the rate of our understanding of the earth.
No less than the emergence of marine geology as a science is owed Ewing.
Before him, conjecture passed for scientific knowledge of what lay below the
shallows of the continental shelves. What for centuries had been called “off
soundings” was presumed an axoic monotony up to as recently as 1942. Like
the featureless bottom of a tub, its raison d’etre was just to hold water.
Ewing disagreed. He dismissed the ocean as “a murky mess” he wished would
evaporate to reveal the real wonders in the bottom. And what wonders they turned
out to be-scapes so fantastic that Homer could have dreamed them for his own
Poseidon. Yet the beauty of the findings was incidental to Ewing’s goal of
solving the geophysical enigmas of an entire planet. This sort of irrepressible
curiosity more than made up for the fact that Ewing never received
formal training in geology or geophysics. He toppled so many of the
icons of classical geology, it’s a won&r he fell short of discover-
ing seafloor spreading from his own investigations. Perhaps,
being the great generalist he was, the avalanche of projects he
generated left no time to ponder the details.
Much of Ewing’s huge scientific undertaking would have
been indefinitely postponed without those who toiled in
the master’s shadow-retinues of students and
associates whom he alternately ignored or overwhelmed
with his demands.
Although Ewing didn’t shun the image of scientific demiurge,
first and foremost he considered himself a teacher. Never mind
“Dot” (as most everyone called him) sometimes fell asleep in his
own class after staying up all night at the lab; or that he was un-
accessible for long periods while at sea. More didactic than his
lectures was his attitude about science (i.e., little else mattered)
and his insistence on hands-on experience. The lesson one of
Ewing’s students valued most was “to bleed the last ounce of in-
formation out of the data.”
As so often happens, the “oppressed” came to resemble the
oppressor; Ewing’s students clung to their theses as ends unto
themselves, “A student can hang around until he rots, as long as
he continues to work at geophysics,” Dot used to say. As they
eventually parted from the taskmaster to pursue their own interests,
a curious pattern began to emerge. Most if not all of his 200-plus
graduate students achieved a measure of success well above the
average. And what higher a professor’s glory than to count among
his ahmmi the likes of Albert Crary, Milton Dobrin, William
DOM, Jim Dorman, Charles Drake, Gordon Hamilton, Jim Hayes,
Bruce Heezen, John Bracken Hersey, Sam Katz, Marcus Lang-
seth, Gary Latham, Bernie Luskin, Maurice Major, Edward
Miller, Charles Officer, Jack Oliver, Frank Press, H.M. Ruther-
ford, Nelson Steenland, Ivan Tolstoy, Allyn Vine, Joe Worxel,
and Paul Wuenschel. Dot was proud of their individual
achievements, but his dreams couldn’t be contained in the halls of
=== Early years and Education ===
William Maurice Ewing was born on May 12, 1906, to Floyd
and Hope Hamilton Ewing. Maurice (Pronounced Morris), like
his six younger siblings, was heir to the self-discipline and hard
work of a farming family that coaxed a livelihood from the harsh
flats of the Texas Panhandle. Recreation and relaxation would
remain foreign concepts throughout his life; Ewing worked twice
as long and hard as anybody. There were no days off.
Ewing received a bachelor’s in 1926 with honors in math and
physics, a master’s in 1927 in physics, and a doctorate in 1931
from Rice where he was Hohenthal Scholar (1923-26) and a
Fellow in Physics (1926-29). To support himself, Ewing worked on
seismic crews during the summers, and this was the extent of his
formal training in geophysics.
=== Professional Career ===
After a year at the University of Pittsburgh as a physics
instructor, in 1930 Ewing joined the Lehigh University faculty. Four
years later, an unexpected visit by Professor Richard Field, of
Princeton, and William Bowie, of the US Coast and Geodetic
Survey, altered the course of his career completely.
The geologic problem they hoped Ewing could unravel was
whether the deep place where the continental shelf ends was a geologic fault or the result of outbuilding of sediment from the land.
Field and Bowie, who knew about Ewing through papers he
presented at the American Geophysical Union, thought that per-
haps seismic measurements, with which Ewing had become
familiar while working on crews, could be used in the
investigation. The answer was affirmative, provided one had adequate
equipment and a ship. As for Ewing’s willingness, he would sum
it up years later in his biography, Z’Jre Floor of the Sea: Maurice
Ewing and the Search to Understand the Earth. “If they had asked
me to put seismic equipment on the moon instead of the bottom
of the ocean I’d have agreed, I was so desperate for a chance to
do research.” But then, according to his biographer, William
Wertenbaker, “Ewing was desperate to learn something most of the
With a $2000 grant from the Geological Society of America,
Ewing set out in 1935 to do what had never been tried before-
explosion seismology at sea. Onboard the Coast Survey’s
Oceunogrupher and later that year on the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution’s Atluntis, Ewing, with Albert Crary and H.M. Ruther-
ford, began tests to trace the basement rock off the coast of Vir-
ginia in an outcrop almost to the edge of the continental shelf.
Their outdated equipment was borrowed from an oil company that
Ewing had worked for.
Using the seismic refraction method, Ewing determined that
the continental shelf was a thick wedge of sediment (the tidelands
where oil forms) underlain by the continental basement. The
answer to Field and Bowie’s academic query didn’t, however,
shake any foundations other than those of Ewing’s own career.
After his experience at sea, all he wanted to do thereon was solve
the geophysical enigmas of the earth, and Ewing firmly believed
that all the clues lay beneath the ocean basins. His attempts to
obtain an annual grant from several major oil companies in return
for the data he could gather regarding the offshore’s hydrocarbon
potential were unsuccessful. His venture, he was told, wasn’t
worth a cent of the shareholder’s money.
A grant from the John Simmon Guggenheim Foundation enabled
Ewing to take an indefinite leave of absence from Lehigh which
had just promoted him from assistant professor of physics to as-
sociate professor of geology. (He always felt that this grant was
the turning point in his career.)
Ewing began conducting experiments in the North Atlantic
basin assisted first by Crary and Rutherford and then by Allyn
Vine (later of Alvin research sub fame), Norman Webster, George
Woollard, and Wonel. The challenges of moving their old-
fashioned gear from 100 fathoms to the then-formidable depth of
1000 fathoms were compounded by limited access (two weeks a
year) to the Atlantis. And considering that the ship’s main scien-
tific objectives were other than Ewing’s, the most they managed
to obtain during those two weeks was three to four good records.
Always pressed for time Ewing rigged ingenious data-gather-
ing devices to work alongside the seismic equipment. One of those
instruments was a deep-sea camera (the first ever) he and Vine
had built on a shoestring grant from the National Geographic
Society. No one else was interested in backing underwater photog-
raphy because expert oceanographers maintained that water in
depths greater than a few tens of fathoms was too murky to get
any images of the bottom.
=== Links ===
[http://library.seg.org/doi/pdf/10.1190/1.1436806 - Biography of Maurice Ewing]

Latest revision as of 08:35, 15 September 2020

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