In Memoriam: Edward M. Hulburt


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of Scientist Emeritus Edward M. (Mac) Hulburt on December 31, at his home in Woods Hole surrounded by his family.  He was 93.

Mac grew up in Washington, D.C., coming from a family of musically-inclined scientists, mathematicians, and artists who loved nature. He enjoyed playing flute and violin and considered a career as a violinist before settling on science, following in the footsteps of his father, a prominent physicist. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, interrupted midstream by service as a Corpsman in the US Coast Guard in WWII.

Mac began his career at WHOI in 1949 as a research assistant.  In 1956, he became a phytoplanktonologist under Bostwick Ketchum.  In 1957, he became research associate in Marine Biology and in 1963 was appointed associate scientist with tenure.  He retired in 1985.

As a tenured research scientist at WHOI, Mac was instrumental in mapping the distribution of phytoplankton species in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Humboldt Current, discovering new species, including Amphidinium carterae Hulburt. His research cruises ranged from the Sargasso Sea, coastal Peru, and the Atlantic coastal regions from Long Island Sound to the Gulf of Maine. He often wrote up his papers in pencil by candlelight in the wee hours at the dining room table. In 1980, he spent a year in Tehran, Iran, setting up a research lab.

While his early years focused on empirical research, in his later years a growing interest in logic, philosophy, and mathematical constructs influenced the framing of his data. At the age of 92 as a scientist emeritus, he gave what was his final talk on May 16, 2012, titled "The Logical Structure of the World."

A lifelong four-season sailor known to take a bone-chilling foray out on Vineyard Sound on Christmas Day, he built his first wooden 16-foot sloop (Comet class) at the age of 16. He enjoyed extended cruises between Maryland and Maine as well as many contemplative afternoon sails out of Little Harbor. Mac loved the ballet and opera, art, and architecture.

He is survived by his wife Joan B. Hulburt, his daughter, Dianne McPherson of New York, NY, son, David L.M. Hulburt of Woods Hole, granddaughters, Jocelyn, Christa, and Tessa Hulburt, and nephew, Douglas Chadwick and niece, Deborah Clearman.

A funeral service and burial will be held on Saturday, January 18, at 1:00 p.m., at the Church of the Messiah, 22 Church Street, Woods Hole, followed by a reception at Fisher House.

Some of the information for this obituary is from the Cape Cod Times.


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