In Memoriam: James W. Mavor, Jr.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death August 29, 2006 of James W. Mavor, Jr. at his home in Woods Hole of cancer.  He was 83.

James Watt Mavor, Jr. was born January 18, 1923 in Schenectady, N.Y., where he attended grade school and junior high school.  He was a student at the Loomis School from 1937 to 1940 and at Union College for a year before moving to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1944 in naval architecture and marine engineering.

During World War II Jim served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, working as a drydocking and repair officer from 1944 to 1946 with a final rank of Lt. Jg.  After the war he returned to MIT to pursue graduate studies while also working as a naval architect for the David Taylor Model Basin from 1946 to 1948, and for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in submarine design from 1948 to 1949. 

After receiving a master's degree from MIT in naval architecture in 1950, Jim taught as an assistant professor of marine engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1950 to 1953, when he joined the faculty at Northeastern University as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.  He was promoted to associate professor in 1957 and taught at the university until 1961.  He also served as an instructor in naval architecture and as a consultant to Bethlehem Steel at its Quincy shipyard from 1957 to 1959.

Jim's long connection to Woods Hole began as a child. His father, a biologist at Union College, worked at MBL during the summers and the family had a cottage on Bar Neck Road. He recalled watching the arrival of the new Research Vessel Atlantis from Denmark with his family in 1931.  He continued to spend summers in Woods Hole through the 1950s, and with his family became year-round residents in 1961.

Jim joined the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution staff as a consultant in 1957 working in ocean engineering with Harold Sawyer. In 1959 he moved to a casual basis as an associate in applied physics, and in 1961 became a full-time employee as a research associate in applied physics. He was promoted to research specialist in 1963, and continued working in Ocean Engineering with early Alvin operations and other projects with Scott Daubin and later Earl Hays. 

During his WHOI career he was also active in the education programs of the Institution, serving on the graduate studies faculty from 1968 until he left the Institution in 1980.  He also served as the Institution safety engineer from 1968 to 1973.  He was a lecturer in the Department of Ocean Engineering at MIT for many years, and served as a lecturer and staff member at the Sea Education Association.

Jim was a member of numerous professional societies and organizations, including the Marine Technology Society, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.   He was a consultant in engineering design and analysis, education and yacht design, and authored or co-authored more than 25 publications and 35 technical reports as well as the 1969 book, "Voyage to Atlantis" during his WHOI career. After early retirement from the Institution in 1980, he devoted himself to researching and writing about ancient history, anthropology, and archaeoastronomy. He wrote several books and published numerous articles in these fields, and was a member of the New England Antiquities Research Association.

Active in the Woods Hole community, Jim and wife Mary founded the weekly Woods Hole Folk Dance and the monthly Woods Hole Contra Dance. He was a founding member of the Woods Hole Folk Orchestra, playing a variety of instruments including the accordion.  He also loved to sail, and was an active member of the Woods Hole Yacht Club.

He is survived by a son, James W. Mavor III of Needham, Mass.; two daughters, Anne H. Mavor of Portland, Ore. and Salley H. Mavor of Falmouth, Mass; and five grandchildren, Peter and Ian Goldsborough of Falmouth, Mass., David and Danya Mavor of Needham, Mass., and Rowan Karas of Portland, Ore. His wife of 55 years, Mary Mavor, died in 2005.

A memorial gathering will take place Saturday, September 2, at 2:00 p.m. at the Woods Hole Community Hall on Water Street in Woods Hole.  Burial will be private.

Further information will be posted when available.


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(Photo courtesy of the Mavor Family)