In Memoriam: Ken Prada


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Ken Prada on December 21, 2013. He was 76.

Ken was born in Boston and majored in Electrical Engineering at UMass Amherst from 1956-1958.  In 1959 he joined the U.S. Marine Corp, training at Parris Island, South Carolina, and Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.  After deployments at Twentynine Palms, CA, and Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, AL, Ken left the Marines in 1965.

Ken began his career at WHOI in 1966 as a research assistant in the G&G Department. In 1968, he was promoted to research associate.  Recognizing Ken’s engineering and organizational abilities, K.O. Emory, senior scientist in the G&G Dept., entrusted him for a number of years with the technical responsibilities for the East African Continental Margin geophysical expeditions.  During this period, Ken developed long running associations with Arthur Baggeroer and other researchers at MIT and Joint Program students in the marine acoustic arena.  In 1973, he was promoted to research specialist.  In 1974, Ken assembled a group of young engineers and led the development of the first multi-channel towed seismic system in the ocean science academic community.   In the ‘70s, Ken was an early proponent of computers for digital data acquisition in the field and after many uses at sea his group took the first such system to an Arctic ice camp in 1978 in support of ONR/MIT/WHOI acoustic research.  

Ken was insightful in his application of computational facilities to data acquisition as well as being an extraordinary machine language coder when there was no other way.  When microprocessors first became available in the early ‘80s, he arranged breakfast meetings for his group, which included paying rapt attention to televised instructional sessions regarding use of these new tools, starting with the early Intel 4004 and 8008 processors.  He was effective both in the lab and in the field, thought fast on his feet and ran a tight lab aboard ship.  At sea, he was as in the lab, always willing to pitch-in when difficulties arose, such as the occasion on the Atlantis II when the cook was too ill to function and Ken took over, in addition to his science responsibilities.  

In 1981 he was named senior research specialist.  In 1982 he and his group transferred to the Ocean Engineering (OE) department.  When Bob Spindel became the OE chairman, he asked Ken to head up the newly formed Advanced Engineering Lab.   In 1991, he was promoted to the new and highest technical staff rank of principal engineer.  In 1996 Ken was awarded the Senior Technical Staff Award, which is an award determined by the Director of Research.   Ken recognized the importance of the WHOI engineering staff and its responsibility to help merge technical with scientific leadership.   Ken spoke his mind on issues he considered important to the health of the Institution and did not hesitate to champion individuals who earned his respect.  Ken retired in December 1997.

A memorial celebration of his life will be held at a later date.  Further information will be posted when available.



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