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Whitehead to Receive AGU’s 2014 Maurice Ewing Medal


December 15, 2014

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Scientist Emeritus Dr. John (Jack) Whitehead has been selected to receive the 2014 Maurice Ewing Medal from the America Geophysical Union (AGU).

The Maurice Ewing Medal is given annually to one honoree in recognition for “significant original contributions to the ocean sciences.” Whitehead is being recognized for “his many contributions to physical oceanography and geological fluid dynamics, including the dynamics of rotating hydraulics and mantle plumes, through the combination of novel and deceptively simple laboratory experiments and theory.”

Whitehead’s research has focused on the complex fluid mechanics of the oceans and planetary interiors.  His work has included laboratory and theoretical modeling of geophysical flows, especially buoyancy-driven flows in the ocean and in the earth.

“Jack’s contributions to physical oceanography are wide-ranging and important. What is perhaps less appreciated by physical oceanographers is breadth of his accomplishments across other areas of geophysical fluid dynamics,” said WHOI Senior Scientist Karl Helfrich, a longtime colleague and collaborator.  “Indeed, I think most of us would be justifiably proud of accomplishments comparable to Jack’s in either the oceanographic or geophysical arenas. But to have done such important work in both is simply amazing.”

Whitehead earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tufts University in 1963 and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University in 1965 and 1968, respectively. After working as a postdoctoral fellow and then an assistant research geophysicist at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UCLA, he joined the Scientific Staff at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1971 and was an assistant, associate, and senior scientist before becoming scientist emeritus in 2007.  In 2007, Whitehead received the Henry M. Stommel Research Award from the American Meteorological Society.

The Maurice Ewing Medal was established in 1974 and jointly sponsored with the U.S. Navy in honor of Maurice Ewing, who made significant contributions to deep-sea exploration.  Previous WHOI honorees of this medal include: Henry M. Stommel, John I. Ewing, Kenneth O. Emery, Richard P. Von Herzen, Bruce A. Warren, G. Michael Purdy, William J. Jenkins, and Joseph Pedlosky.

Whitehead will receive the award at the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting during the Honors Tribute, which will take place Wednesday December 17, 2014 in San Francisco.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit