Jobs were scarce when Dean Bumpus returned to his native Massachusetts after graduating from Oberlin College in 1935 with a degree in biology. He counted himself lucky to find work and graduate study at Brown University. Through that connection, he landed a job at WHOI in 1937 as a biological technician, one of the first year-round employees (and one of only three people around in the winter then). This was the beginning of an association that lasted until his retirement in 1977 and beyond.
During World War II, Bumpus was part of a team of WHOI people who trained Navy ship and submarine crews to use the bathythermograph to recognize temperature gradients that would camouflage a submarine. “Bump” spent much of his career tracking surface and bottom currents in the western North Atlantic.
To do this, he used information from hundreds of thousands of surface drift bottles carrying notes and plastic seabed drifters stamped with a message that promised a reward for their return (a poster encouraging returns). This work contributed significant information on surface and bottom circulation along the continental shelf of eastern North America and also gained Bump considerable fame.
When he passed away at age 89 in 2002, his obituary was published not only locally but also in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine.
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Originally published: February 1, 2005