Warren E. Witzell, 1953-1987
Scope and Content Note
The series consists of materials related to oceanographic instruments designed and patented by Warren Witzell and Sydney Knott. Materials include photographs, instructions, memoranda, patents, correspondence and articles relating to seven instruments: waterproof and pressureproof cable plugs and connections, the multiple electrode spark source, lightweight towed transducer housing, sweep synchronized positionable trigger, continuous magnetic line hydrophone, in-line cable connector for well-logging cable and the Arctic Remote Autonomous Measurement Platform (ARAMP).
Also included in the series are four photographs of the In-line cable connector for well-logging cable, and photographic slides of Vice President Hubert Humphrey's visit to WHOI in 1967 and of DSV Alvin from 1964.
Language of Materials
Open: materials are available for research.
Warren Edward "Whitey" Witzell was born July 2, 1923, in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Whitey joined the Institution staff in 1946 as a fireman in the heating plant and soon served as second assistant engineer aboard the Research Vessel Mentor. The temporary positions turned into a full-time position as night janitor in August 1951. In February 1952 Whitey transferred to the Institution's technical staff. He was appointed a Research Associate in 1963 and Research Specialist in 1974.
In his capacity as Research Associate, he was involved in the electro-mechanical design of towed underwater "fish" and the design of mechanical handling gear for shipboard use. One of his major contributions to the expansion of tools created for oceanography at that time was his development of the Precision Graphic Recorder (PGR), a sophisticated echo-sounder, which was used to search for the lost U.S. nuclear submarine Thresher. He was also trained to handle and detonate explosives used for seismic research.
In 1974 Whitey was promoted to Research Specialist in charge of the Geology and Geophysics Department's Electro-Mechanical Shop, supervising all work for the department as well as other service work for the Institution. The position required extensive travel throughout the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, the Red Sea and passage through the Suez Canal. During his 38 years at the Institution he acquired four patents and was the author or co-author of numerous technical reports and scientific publications. Whitey retired in 1987 but remained active at the Institution until 1998, using his electronics engineering expertise for various projects including the Barents Sea Polar Front Experiment in the early 1990s.
Through the years colleagues noted Whitey's ability to build experimental devices on a shoestring, calling him "an accomplished scavenger who uses his vast knowledge of the whereabouts of various old instruments to put together useful gear at a tiny fraction of the cost that should have been budgeted." His engineering skills and expertise, professionalism and competence were noted and valued by the many scientists and fellow engineers with whom he worked.
Materials are grouped by instrument and chronologically thereunder. Photographs and negatives were removed from the series and are stored with the Image Collection.
Received from Susan Fletcher Witzell on May 28, 2013 as acc2013-07.