In Memoriam: Charles Yentsch


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Charles Yentsch on September 19.  He was 85.

Charlie was born September 13, 1927, in Louisville, KY. He received a BS in Biology from University of Louisville in 1951, an MS in Oceanography from Florida State University in 1953, and attended University of Washington.

Charlie began his career at WHOI in 1956 as a research associate in Marine Biology.  In 1963, he became an associate scientist.  He left in 1967.

"Charlie made significant contributions in many areas of bio-optical oceanography, including modeling of primary production. He was one of the first to promote the idea that phytoplankton biomass could be measured from satellites and then served on the NASA science team that made this a reality. Charlie was a gracious, kind and good-humored person who will be missed by many," said Jim Yoder.

Charlie founded the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in 1974 with his wife Dr. Clarice Yentsch  He was Bigelow Laboratory’s executive director from 1974 to 1987.

A distinguished ocean scientist with a career that spanned nearly half a century, he was internationally known for his pioneering work on phytoplankton pigments, which spurred the development and advancement of the field of ocean color remote sensing. Charlie was on the original NASA NIMBUS team, the group responsible for launching the first ocean color sensor into space, the “Coastal Zone Color Scanner.”  Thereafter, he was directly involved in promoting the use of satellite sensors for ocean research and was an active advocate for space-based oceanography.

Working with equal grace in both scientific and administrative realms, he founded three oceanographic laboratories over his career and published an average of three scientific papers every year. He received numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) in 1999, the prestigious Nils Gunnar Jerlov Award for “advancement of knowledge of the nature and consequences of light in the ocean,” and designation as a Fellow of The Oceanography Society in 2010. 

At Charlie's request, there will be no public service. Comments are welcome, however, on the Laboratory's facebook page. The Laboratory is accepting gifts to the newly established Yentsch Scholarship Fund. Contributions may be made online or sent to the fund at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 60 Bigelow Drive, East Boothbay, ME 04544.

Some of the information for this obituary was taken from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences website.


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