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Francis Carey

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death December 11, 1994 of Senior Scientist Francis G. Carey of the Biology Department. Frank died at home in West Falmouth, MA, of cancer at age 63.

Frank Carey was born in New York City and raised in Rockville, CT. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1954 with a B.S. degree in biology, spent two years at Yale University completing biochemical research for his doctoral thesis, and received his Ph.D. degree in biology from Harvard University in 1960. After working in postdoctoral positions at Duke University, he joined the staff at WHOI in 1961 as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow to work in the laboratory of John Kanwisher of the Biology Department. He was appointed an Assistant Scientist in 1963 and was promoted to Associate Scientist in 1967 and to Senior Scientist in 1985.

Trained initially as a biochemist, Frank studied the chemistry of development in the cecropia silkworm and other insects. Soon after his arrival at WHOI his work focused increasingly on physiological interests and was soon devoted to the physiology, functional anatomy, and behavioral ecology of large fishes. Described by a colleague as “undoubtedly the world’s authority” on large fishes, Frank studied many living fishes, including the great white shark, mako shark, porbeagle shark, great blue shark, the bluefin and other tunas, the swordfish, and the blue marlin. He made many contributions to the topic of warm-bloodedness in some of these big fishes, long thought to be cold-blooded like other fishes. Most recently, Frank was studying blue sharks by attaching satellite transmitters to follow their migration. He wrote an article on the blue shark, “Travelers in the Empty Blue,” in the summer 1992 issue of Oceanus magazine. Those who knew him best were amazed at his strength and tenacity in continuing his work in the face of his debilitating illness.

Friends and colleagues note that Frank Carey seemed to relish the difficulties of capturing and making measurements of these big fishes, but he equally relished the problems inherent in working at sea and in developing new technology. He was a generous collaborator with students. Barbara Block of the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford University, a former student of Carey’s, credits him with inspiring her and a generation of marine biologists to study open ocean fish. “Frank Carey is considered the father of tuna biology, and he pioneered many of the techniques now used to study large fish in the open ocean.” His leadership and inspiration were noted by Block in September when Stanford opened the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, a laboratory to study large tunas in captivity.

He is survived by his mother, Hilda F. Carey, of Falmouth; a daughter, Diana Carey, of Boston; a son, Seth Carey, of West Falmouth; a sister, Elin Carey, of Nantucket; a brother, Brian Carey, of New York City; and long-time friend Diane Stoecker of Secretary, Maryland.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, December 17, at 2:00 p.m. at Fisher House on Church Street in Woods Hole. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Frank’s memory be made to the Penikese Island School, 3 Little Harbor Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543.