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WHOI Waypoints: New Senior Scientist Chair Honors Bob Morse

Bob Morse had already left a legacy at WHOI. As the third dean of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, he guided the nascent program through a period of significant growth between 1973 and 1979. Now he leaves another: The Robert W. Morse Senior Scientist Chair at WHOI has been established in his honor with funds from the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation in Tucson, Arizona.

The permanently endowed chair will be awarded to a scientist for extraordinary accomplishments in marine scientific research and education. Funds for the chair provide an invaluable boost for its recipient to work on projects for which traditional grant support is unlikely or to explore new ideas or research directions inspired by the availability of new technology.

Morse came to WHOI in 1971, culminating a distinguished career as a physicist and educator. Following his graduation from Bowdoin College in 1943, he was a naval officer until 1946. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Brown University, where he held several faculty positions between 1949 and 1966, including Professor of Physics, Physics Department Chair, and Dean of the College. His research interests included underwater acoustics, low-temperature and solid-state physics, and science policy.

He was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development in 1964, serving until 1966, when he was named President of Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. A year later, Case merged with Western Reserve University and he became President of Case Western Reserve University until 1971, when he became Director of Research at WHOI. He served as Associate Director and Dean of Graduate Studies from 1973 to 1979, and as Director of Marine Policy and Ocean Management for several years. He retired from WHOI in June 1983 and was named Scientist Emeritus. He lives in North Falmouth.

Morse also served for many years as a director of Research Corporation, an organization originally endowed by the Cottrell Foundation that awards research grants to individuals and nonprofit institutions. He was also a founding Director of the new Research Corporation Technologies, an independent technology management company that supports commercial development of innovations from universities and research institutions worldwide through seed investments, partnerships and management, licensing, and other services.

“Research Corporation Technologies wanted to make an award through the Cottrell Foundation to a research institution or university in my honor, and I chose WHOI,” Morse said. “It is a very special institution with a unique obligation to promote ocean sciences research for this country. WHOI is a can-do organization with solid accomplishments, where the staff works extremely hard to get a lot done with the resources at hand, and it uses its funding resources wisely. I’m flattered at this honor and very pleased WHOI scientists will benefit from it for years to come.”

Hal Caswell, a leading mathematical ecologist at WHOI who has developed widely used modeling techniques to study population dynamics, was named the first holder of the Morse Chair.

Originally published: October 1, 1999