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Jerry Dean

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Jerome P. Dean, 82, of Falmouth and Hancock, Maine, January 30.

He was born in rural Richlands, Virginia, to Alice Vivian Snead Dean and the Reverend John Kerr Dean Sr., a minister who was active on the Methodist circuit throughout Appalachian coal towns in Virginia and Tennessee during the Great Depression. The family moved as often as once a year, and Mr. Dean attended many schools. When he was 6 years old, all six boys in the family were afflicted during a polio outbreak, and one of his brothers died.

Mr. Dean was a multi-sport star athlete in high school and college, in particular as a football running back.

In 1954, while attending Emory & Henry College in Virginia, Mr. Dean met and married Mary Jane Richardson.

To support his family and fund college, he joined the US Marine Corps. After two years of service from 1954 to 1956 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he transferred to Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Upon graduation in 1959 with a degree in electrical engineering, Mr. Dean was recruited by Sperry Marine Systems in Charlottesville, Virginia, to design and build equipment for ocean-going vessels. He worked there for a decade.

In 1970, he accepted a position in the WHOI Physical Oceanography Department working under Bill von Arx. He worked at WHOI until 1997, when he retired as a senior research specialist and was appointed an oceanographer emeritus.

“Jerry was one of the key people providing engineering expertise to the Buoy Group and to scientists in the Physical Oceanography Department,” said WHOI senior scientist Bob Weller. “Always inventive, enthusiastic and hard working, he helped [Senior Scientist] Al Plueddemann and I make new measurements of the upper ocean from the Research Platform FLIP.”

At WHOI he was tasked with designing and building scientific equipment for studying gravity, acoustics, currents and related ocean characteristics.

“A uniquely-styled perfectionist, Jerry applied his comprehensive knowledge of mechanisms and electronics to solve complex measurement problems,” said WHOI Senior Engineer Paul Fucile. “His tireless commitment both in the lab and at sea provided scientists with decades of the highest quality data. Widely recognized in the community, he was known for both his easy-going, folksy manner and no-nonsense, focused determination to work out the problem at hand.”

Highlights of his years at WHOI include traveling at sea with colleagues around the world; being a core member of the Buoy Group; taking a trip in the submersible Alvin to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean; publishing numerous articles; and having his photographs featured in Smithsonian Magazine.

After retirement, Mr. Dean remained actively engaged in advances in research and was a tireless advocate for preservation of historic marine research instruments, particularly the electromagnetic gyrocompass.

He was an accomplished craftsman; his projects included building and renovating his homes in Falmouth and Maine.

Mr. Dean chose to donate his body to science.

He leaves two children, Annie H. Dean of Falmouth and Jerome P. Dean Jr. of California; four grandchildren, Max and Alejandra Dean of California and Henry Jones and Bene Webster of Falmouth; the mother of his children, Mary Jane Dean; and one brother, Samuel Dean.

A private ceremony is planned.


Jerry Dean