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#REDIRECT [[Maurice Ewing]]
'''William Maurice Ewing'''(May 12, 1906 – May 4, 1974) was an American geophysicist and
 
oceanographer.
 
 
 
 
 
== 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
 
academe.
 
 
 
=== 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
 
time.”
 
 
 
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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