In Memoriam: Duncan Blanchard


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with sorrow the death of former employee Duncan Blanchard on February 25, 2016, after an acute respiratory illness. He was 91.

Duncan was born in 1924 in Winter Haven, FL.  He received a BNS (Naval Science) in 1945 and a B.S. in General Engineering from Tufts in 1947; M.S. in Physics from Penn State Grad School in 1951; and Ph.D. in Meteorology from MIT in 1961.

His first full-time job was as an apprentice machinist at Pittsfield General Electric Co. He left to join the U.S. Navy during WWII and was sent to Harvard and Tufts Universities in the Navy V-12 officer training program. He then served as an ensign on the Pacific island of Guam. After the war he returned to Tufts and earned a BS in engineering in 1947. On the track team at Tufts in his first year, coached by the acclaimed Clarence "Ding" Dussault, he became the New England Intercollegiate champion in both the one-mile and two-mile run.

Duncan joined Project Cirrus, with other scientists, under Dr. Irving Langmuir from 1947 to 1949 at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, NY. This was the first attempt to seed clouds to make rain.  At Penn State, he earned an MS in physics in 1951 and published his first paper, "The Behavior of Water Drops at Terminal Velocity in Air."  Photographs of these drops showed that rain drops are shaped like hamburger buns, unlike the popular teardrop assumption! 

After completing his MS., Duncan began working at WHOI in 1951 as a research associate in meteorology.  In 1963, he was promoted to associate scientist.  This was the beginning of a life long friendship and correspondence with the distinguished Al Woodcock. At WHOI, his research was with the interactions between the atmosphere and the sea surface. During this time, he also had a fellowship and leave of absence to attend MIT, earning a Ph.D in atmospheric science. He left WHOI in 1968, and continued this work at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC), at the University at Albany, SUNY, as senior research associate and professor. 

Duncan gave presentations of his work at scientific conferences here and abroad, and published about 140 articles. Most appeared in technical journals, but some were written for a general audience. He thought it very important to reach out to the public to explain science, giving numerous talks over the years to adults and children, and several at the Harlan Rowe Middle School in Athens, PA, when his children were students. His book "From Raindrops to Volcanoes" (1967) is about adventures in science. It is published in seven languages and was reprinted in 2004. In 1970 he published a popular article about a Vermont farmer, Wilson Bentley. His second book "The Snowflake Man" (1998) expands on the life and pioneering work of Mr. Bentley, who made the first photographs of snow crystals in 1885.

Duncan was honored by being elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He retired from ASRC at Albany in 1989, but continued writing and exchanging ideas with colleagues. His last published work was in 2013.  Early in life, Duncan enjoyed cross-country skiing and square dancing, and became interested in the philosophy of Humanism. In later life he volunteered at a food kitchen and was concerned about climate warming.

Duncan was predeceased by his parents Norman and Edna Perkins Blanchard, infant sister Dorcas, brother-in-law Ernest Bosselman, and step-son-in-law John Eisenbraun. He is survived by his third wife Julia Nugent Blanchard of Albany, NY; children Rebecca Blanchard of Kasilof, AK, Andrea Blanchard (Douglas) Cone of Williamsville, NY, Duncan Blanchard of Carmichael, CA, and Jonathan Blanchard of Titusville, FL; stepdaughters Margaret Eisenbraun of Oak Harbor, WA, and Laura Smith of San Francisco, CA; sister Barbara Bosselman of North Falmouth, Mass., brother Norman (Margaret) Blanchard of Willow Street, PA; several grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins.

The family held a memorial gathering in Woods Hole, Mass.






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