The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow
the death July 9, 2006 of Scientist Emeritus John Ryther of Hatchville
at Falmouth Hospital after a long illness. He was 83.
John H. Ryther was born July 17, 1922 in Newton, MA and graduated from
Newton High School. He received his A.B. degree in 1947, M.A.
degree in 1950 and Ph.D. degree in 1951 from Harvard University, where
he was a student of George Clarke. From 1942 to 1945 he served in
the U.S. Army air force as a pilot, flying 83 combat missions in
Europe, and was discharged in 1945 with the rank of captain.
During the summer of 1950 John Ryther spent the month of August at the
Institution working in George Clarke’s lab in Bigelow. Although
his doctoral thesis was on plankton physiology, John’s interest and
experience at that time were in fish ecology. In the winter of
1949-1950 he worked with Jerry Collins stocking the Mashpee River with
hatchery raised trout to force the native trout out to sea. The
following April he wrote to Alfred Redfield to apply for a summer
fellowship, which he was granted, and he began working with Dr. Belding
although he also pursued studies of the physiology of unicellular algae
isolated from Great South Bay and the effects of salinity on algal
He joined the WHOI staff full time as a research associate in marine
biology in October 1951, working with Buck Ketchum and others. In
1956 he was appointed a marine biologist, and in 1961 he was asked to
assume overall responsibility for planning the biological program of
the International Indian Ocean Expedition. He and other members of the
Biology Department and more than 150 scientists from the U.S. and
abroad participated in this major international program, which utilized
the converted presidential yacht Williamsburg, recommissioned Anton Brunn, to collect data on particle and dissolved organic carbon in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
In 1963 John Ryther was appointed a Senior Scientist, and with the
organization of the Institution into scientific departments he became
the first chairman of the Biology Department, serving from 1963 until
Through his interest in aquaculture, John secured funds in 1972 to
build the Environmental Systems Laboratory (ESL) on the Quissett
Campus. In the algae ponds and heated/chilled raceways he and ESL
staff raised shellfish, fish and seaweed in a controlled
environment. He was well known for his experiments
incorporating advanced human waste treatment to grow algae as a source
of food for shellfish. He also conducted similar experiments at the
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, FL.
In 1980 John Ryther was named director of the Coastal Research
Center. He left WHOI the following year to become a professor of
forest resources and conservation at the University of Florida in
Gainesville, where he helped develop a marine resources program, and
later moved to Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. John returned
to the Institution in 1987 and was named a scientist emeritus at WHOI
in 1988. He wrote one of his last publications for Trout
Unlimited on anadromous trout in salt water, visiting trout streams
from Long Island to the Canadian Maritimes. During his career he
published more than 120 scientific publications, and co-authored one of
the first comprehensive books on shellfish aquaculture.
Through the years John Ryther served as a consultant to numerous
government and state agencies, utility companies and state water
projects, including the National Science Foundation, National
Institutes of Health, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, New York
State Department of Education, National Council on Marine Resources and
Engineering Development in Aquaculture, Boston Edison Company, and
Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company. He was a member of the
corporations for many years at the Marine Biological Laboratory and the
Bermuda Biological Station.
Survivors include his wife, Jean Ryther of Hatchville, MA; two sons,
John H. Ryther, Jr. of Hatchville, MA and Jeffrey E. Ryther of North
Falmouth, MA; a daughter, Sally S. Chandler of Hatchville, MA; four
grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services are private. Memorial donations may be made to
the Falmouth Fire Rescue Department, 399 Main Street, Falmouth, MA