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Robert W. Morse

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death January 19, 2001 of Scientist Emeritus Robert W. Morse of North Falmouth at the JML Care Center in Falmouth. He was 79.

Robert W. Morse was born May 25, 1921 in Boston. He was educated at Bowdoin College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in math in 1943, and at Brown University, where he received a master’s degree in physics in 1947 and a doctorate in physics in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946, first as an ensign and later as a lieutenant. Bob returned to Brown University in 1946 as a graduate assistant and held varying faculty positions leading to Professor of Physics, Physics Department Chair, and Dean of the College between 1949 and 1966. During this time he took a year off to serve as a Fulbright Fellow at Cambridge University in England. While at Brown he also served as President of the Acoustical Society of America and was Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Undersea Warfare. As a member of the Academy’s Project Nobska in 1956, Bob was instrumental in the creation of the Polaris missile submarine. He was presented the U.S. Navy’s Distinguished Service Award in 1966 for his contributions to national defense.

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Bob Morse Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development. During his brief tenure in Washington he developed, with Admiral Hyman Rickover, the nuclear research submarine NR-1. The NR-1, now used for civilian ocean research, was christened by Bob’s late wife Alice in 1968. Bob returned to the academic world in 1966, when he was named President of Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio. The following year he became President of Case Western Reserve University when Case merged with Western Reserve University, and served in that capacity until 1971.

A physicist with research interests in underwater acoustics, low temperature and solid state physics, and science policy, Bob Morse joined the WHOI staff in 1971 as Director of Research, a position he held for two years. He was appointed a Senior Scientist in 1974, served as Associate Director and Dean of Graduate Studies from 1973 to 1979, and briefly as Director of Marine Policy and Ocean Management in 1979-1980, stepping down to return to research as a Senior Scientist in the Ocean Engineering Department. He retired from WHOI in June 1983, and was named Scientist Emeritus in the Ocean Engineering Department that same year.

Bob Morse’s contributions to the Institution were recognized in August 1999 when the Institution established an endowed chair in his honor. The new chair was established through funds from the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. Senior Scientist Hal Caswell of the Biology Department was named the first recipient of the Robert W. Morse Senior Scientist Chair in October 1999.

Morse served for many years as a Director of Research Corporation, which awards research grants, and was later elected a founding Director of the new Research Corporation Technologies, an independent technology management company. “Research Corporation Technologies wanted to make an award through the Cottrell Foundation to a research institution or university in my honor, and I chose WHOI,” Morse said at the time the chair was announced. “It is a very special institution with a unique obligation to promote ocean sciences research for this country. It is a can-do organization with solid accomplishments, where the staff works extremely hard to get a lot done with the resources at hand, and the Institution uses its funding resources wisely. I’m obviously flattered at this honor, but very pleased WHOI scientists will benefit from it for years to come.”

“Bob Morse, along with previous Director Paul Fye, was influential in guiding our graduate education program during a period of significant growth,” WHOI Director Robert B. Gagosian in announcing the endowed chair in Bob Morse’s honor in August 1999. “Bob served as the third Dean of the joint program with MIT, sharing his wisdom and experience in higher education at several major universities at a critical time in both the history of the program and in higher education in general. Bob also served WHOI in other capacities in the 1970s and 1980s, and he made many contributions to the overall strength of our scientific research programs. WHOI is pleased that the Cottrell Foundation has chosen to honor Bob with an endowed chair at the Institution. It is a fitting and lasting tribute to him.”

Morse is survived by two sons, Robert W. Morse, Jr. of Mill Valley, California, and James P. Morse of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; a daughter, Pamela Morse Moschetti of North Falmouth; and five grandchildren. Bob’s late wife Alice, whom he married January 25, 1943, the same day he graduated from college and was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy, died in February 2000.

Visiting hours will be held Thursday, January 25, 2001 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home on Route 28A in West Falmouth, MA. Burial will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod Inc., 67 Ter Heun Drive, Falmouth, MA 02540, or to the JML Care Center, 184 Ter Heun Drive, Falmouth, MA 02540.

Robert W. Morse