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Valentine Worthington

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the unexpected death February 10, 1995 of Scientist Emeritus Valentine Worthington at his winter home in Abaco, Bahamas. He was 74.

Val Worthington was born March 6, 1920 in Chelsea, London, England. He attended schools in England, graduating from the Westminster School in London in 1938. He came to the U.S. and enrolled at Princeton University, which he attended from 1938 to 1941. His long career at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) began in 1941 when he joined the staff as a bathythermograph technician, working with Maurice Ewing and Columbus Iselin. He took a military leave in 1943 to serve in the U.S. Navy, returning to WHOI in 1946 as a hydrographic technician to work with Frederick Fuglister, who was describing Gulf Stream meanders and ring formation. In 1950 he was appointed a Physical Oceanographer and in 1951 was named a Research Associate. Val was appointed a Senior Scientist in the Physical Oceanography Department in 1963, and served as department chair from 1974 to 1981. He retired in 1982 and was named a Scientist Emeritus that year.

In celebration of his 62nd birthday in 1982 and his retirement following 41 years of service to oceanography, Val’s colleagues presented him with a set of abstracts of papers written in his honor by 41 oceanographers and published in the Journal of Marine Research. The subtitle for the volume, “Cold Wind-Two Gyres,” is a translation of his Japanese nickname, given him by Hideo Kawai and Susumu Honjo. As volume editors Mike McCartney, Bob Beardsley and Harry Bryden noted in their preface, the name refers to two of Val’s “more controversial interpretations of the general circulation of the North Atlantic.” Val’s research interests included Atlantic circulation, deep water circulation, the Caribbean Sea, the Kuroshio Current and water mass formation. Most of his funding was provided by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). His final contract report, “North Atlantic Circulation and Water Mass Formation,” is an eloquent and personal account of much of his professional career. In the footnotes he commented “the ocean is in good hands… I feel I can retire to the Bahamas with a clear conscience.”

Val was a wildlife enthusiast, an avid fisherman, and a literary wit with an inexhaustible supply of quips and quotes. Colleagues note that one of the great pleasures of being around Val was hearing him tell stories. Biologist George Grice notes that Val “had a keen scientific interest in the relationship between ocean circulation and the distribution and abundance of marine life. As an avid sports fisherman, when and why fish occur intrigued him and he was among the best at locating productive places and times to fish, both locally and in the Bahamas. It seemed appropriate that a new species of copepod, small crustaceans on which fish feed, be named in honor of Val.” Paracandacia worthingtoni, found at that time only in the South Pacific, was described by Grice in the Bulletin of the Plankton Society of Japan in 1981. Val continued to enjoy fishing in his retirement, spending winters in the Bahamas but summers in Woods Hole to be close to his family.

In 1961 Val became Ambassador to the Court of St. James from the Society of Subprofessional Oceanographers (SOSO), a three-member group which included Henry Stommel as President and Fritz Fuglister as Acting President. According to Fuglister, Val had shown him a story in a ONR newsletter about a new laboratory in Europe that was to be staffed by eight Ph.D.s and fifteen subprofessionals. “That is what we are,” he said to Fuglister, “subprofessionals.” Fuglister noted, “I had to agree with him. By the same token, we both realized that it made Stommel and others subprofessionals — an astounding thought!”

Val is survived by a daughter, Jill Worthington, of Sandwich; a son, Lawrence V. Worthington, Jr. of Falmouth; and four grandchildren, Sara Pacheco of Sandwich, and Heidi, Thomas and Tony Worthington, all of Falmouth. He was the husband of the late Ruth (McGuinness) Worthington, who died in 1986.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, February 16, 1995 at 1 p.m. at Church of the Messiah on Church Street in Woods Hole, MA, with burial in the church cemetery. A reception will follow at Fisher House across from the church. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Val’s memory be made to the National Audubon Society, 700 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.