Photo of William Maurice Ewing

William Maurice Ewing

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For extending and improving the methods of geology and geophysics to study the ocean floor and to understand the last remaining unexplored province of the solid earth–that which lies under the sea.

In less than three decades, William Maurice Ewing powered our changing view of Planet Earth from that global image of continents edged in blue borders to a dynamic tectonic planet. And where Ewing discovered that much of the action was happening on the seafloor.

Better known as “Doc,” Ewing literally fought his way from a Texas Panhandle farm to attend Rice Institute where he cobbled together jobs to pay his expenses and found his passion for research.

Ewing’s determined mind and entrepreneurial spirit led to the establishment in 1949 of the Lamont Geological Observatory.

Science was woefully ignorant of what was occurring on nearly 70% of our planet – in the oceans – as late as the mid-20th century. It was Ewing who was at the center of experiments that required new instruments, and who demanded constant data collection from the seafloor.

His SOFAR technology was used in WWII to track submarine activity, a storyline found in the novel, The Hunt for Red October.

Doc’s influence is so pervasive that the field of Geophysics can be marked BE (before Ewing) and AE (after Ewing)!

By Barbara Valentino