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George “Richard” Harbison

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of Scientist Emeritus George “Richard” Harbison. Richard passed away peacefully on March 22 surrounded by his family.  He was 76.

Richard loved learning things, and was always evolving through new passions.  He began his Columbia College career as an English Major, ending up with a History degree, followed by his PhD in Biochemistry at Florida State.  He came to Woods Hole as a postdoc to pursue the biochemistry, but fell in love with biological oceanography on his first research cruise.

Richard began his career at WHOI in 1971 as a postdoc fellow in the Biology Department. In 1972, he was promoted to assistant scientist. In 1976, he was promoted to associate scientist. He obtained tenure in 1979.  In 1986, he was promoted to senior scientist and retired in 2001. In 2006, he returned as a scientist emeritus.

Richard studied gelatinous zooplankton, with a focus on the group Ctenophora.  He loved to figure out their associations with other creatures, and had a special passion for working in the open ocean, deep sea, Arctic, and Antarctic regions.  He was particularly proud to collaborate with a great group of friends whose diverse interests (fish, siphonophores, salps, jellyfish, pteropods, etc!) led to learning a great deal about the world’s oceans, largely using SCUBA, submersible, and remotely operated vehicles.  Together, they discovered many new associations among creatures, and many creatures which were new to science.

Richard married Judith Lindsey Harbison in 1989, and they enjoyed many years of great travel, music, theatre, etc., before welcoming triplet sons Arthur, Brian, and Charles into the world in 2004. After the birth of their boys, Richard became passionate about genealogy, and traced their family as far back as possible.  His greatest passion has been to share as many of his passions as possible with his boys, including but not limited to:  the love of learning, reading, science, history, languages, critters of all kinds (especially moose), cooking, eating, travel, logic, beauty, the NY Yankees, theatre, humor, genealogy, astronomy, and mostly his Christian faith. 

He was the beloved husband of Judith Lindsey Harbison for 27 years. He is also survived by his sons Arthur, Brian, and Charles, all of Falmouth, Mass., as well as loving extended family, friends and colleagues all over the world.

Visiting hours will be held on Sunday, March 26, from 3-6 p.m., at the Chapman Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, 584 West Falmouth Highway, West Falmouth, Mass. A funeral service will be held on Monday, March 27, at 10 a.m., at the John Wesley Methodist Church, 270 Gifford St, Falmouth, Mass., followed by burial at the Oak Grove Cemetery, Jones Road, Falmouth, Mass.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to John Wesley United Methodist Church, 270 Gifford Street, Falmouth, Mass., 02540.

Some of the information for this obituary is from the  Chapman, Cole & Gleason website.

George "Richard" Harbison