In Memoriam: John H. Ryther


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death July 9, 2006 of Scientist Emeritus John Ryther of Hatchville at Falmouth Hospital after a long illness. He was 83.

John H. Ryther was born July 17, 1922 in Newton, MA and graduated from Newton High School.  He received his A.B. degree in 1947, M.A. degree in 1950 and Ph.D. degree in 1951 from Harvard University, where he was a student of George Clarke.  From 1942 to 1945 he served in the U.S. Army air force as a pilot, flying 83 combat missions in Europe, and was discharged in 1945 with the rank of captain. 

During the summer of 1950 John Ryther spent the month of August at the Institution working in George Clarke’s lab in Bigelow.  Although his doctoral thesis was on plankton physiology, John’s interest and experience at that time were in fish ecology. In the winter of 1949-1950 he worked with Jerry Collins stocking the Mashpee River with hatchery raised trout to force the native trout out to sea.  The following April he wrote to Alfred Redfield to apply for a summer fellowship, which he was granted, and he began working with Dr. Belding although he also pursued studies of the physiology of unicellular algae isolated from Great South Bay and the effects of salinity on algal growth.
He joined the WHOI staff full time as a research associate in marine biology in October 1951, working with Buck Ketchum and others. In  1956 he was appointed a marine biologist, and in 1961 he was asked to assume overall responsibility for planning the biological program of the International Indian Ocean Expedition. He and other members of the Biology Department and more than 150 scientists from the U.S. and abroad participated in this major international program, which utilized the converted presidential yacht Williamsburg, recommissioned Anton Brunn, to collect data on particle and dissolved organic carbon in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

In 1963 John Ryther was appointed a Senior Scientist, and with the organization of the Institution into scientific departments he became the first chairman of the Biology Department, serving from 1963 until 1970.

Through his interest in aquaculture, John secured funds in 1972 to build the Environmental Systems Laboratory (ESL) on the Quissett Campus.  In the algae ponds and heated/chilled raceways he and ESL staff raised shellfish, fish and seaweed in a controlled environment.   He was well known for his experiments incorporating advanced human waste treatment to grow algae as a source of food for shellfish. He also conducted similar experiments at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, FL.

In 1980 John Ryther was named director of the Coastal Research Center.  He left WHOI the following year to become a professor of forest resources and conservation at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he helped develop a marine resources program, and later moved to Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. John returned to the Institution in 1987 and was named a scientist emeritus at WHOI in 1988.  He wrote one of his last publications for Trout Unlimited on anadromous trout in salt water, visiting trout streams from Long Island to the Canadian Maritimes. During his career he published more than 120 scientific publications, and co-authored one of the first comprehensive books on shellfish aquaculture.

Through the years John Ryther served as a consultant to numerous government and state agencies, utility companies and state water projects, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, New York State Department of Education, National Council on Marine Resources and Engineering Development in Aquaculture, Boston Edison Company, and Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company.  He was a member of the corporations for many years at the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Bermuda Biological Station.

Survivors include his wife, Jean Ryther of Hatchville, MA; two sons, John H. Ryther, Jr. of Hatchville, MA and Jeffrey E. Ryther of North Falmouth, MA; a daughter, Sally S. Chandler of Hatchville, MA; four grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services are private. Memorial donations may be made to the Falmouth Fire Rescue Department, 399 Main Street, Falmouth, MA 02540.


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See Also

John Ryther Memorial

In Memorial of John Ryther