WHOI Office of the Director records, (Admiral Edward Hanson Smith)
Scope and Content Note
The records of the WHOI Office of the Director, 1950-1956 (Edward Hanson Smith) consist of approximately four cartons (5 linear feet) of material that deal exclusively with Smith’s term of office as director of the Institution from 1950-1953. See the Separated Materials note for information regarding Director's materials from Smith in Records of the Office of the Director (Fye).
Language of Materials
Closed/Restricted: materials are only available to the Office of Origin for thirty years, after which they may only be viewed by the Office of Origin or with permission of the Archivist.
Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be authorized by the Institution Archivist.
Rear Admiral Edward Hanson Smith, USCG (United States Coast Guard) retired (1889-1961), became the third Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at age sixty-one on July 1, 1950. Smith succeeded Columbus Iselin, who stepped down to continue his scientific pursuits as senior oceanographer at the Institution. As a Martha’s Vineyard native and descendant of a long line of whalers, Smith had a hereditary link to the sea. After high school and a year of study at MIT, Smith entered the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut in 1910. His graduation in 1913 coincided with the First International Conference on Safety at Sea and the creation of the International Ice Patrol, an event that would later seem to have directed Smith’s destiny.
After several assignments and distinguished service in World War I, including receipt of the World War I Victory Medal, Smith’s vessel was assigned to the International Ice Patrol in 1920. As a result of his detail as scientific observer, he came into association with Henry Bigelow at Harvard. At the end of each ice season, Smith worked with Bigelow analyzing ice patrol data and running experiments on ice samples. The association between the two men had a profound effect on oceanography and began Smith’s lifetime study of glaciology, a study that earned him the nickname “Iceberg” Smith.
He wrote a number of articles on Arctic ice both before and after being awarded a fellowship in oceanography by the American Scandinavian Foundation. He studied in Bergen, Norway and London for over a year and had his article, “A practical method for determining ocean currents” 1 published upon his return. It remains a classic in its field, alongside his other works, which include a report of an expedition on the cutter Marion to Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. As one of only two Americans, he was appointed navigator aboard the airship Graf Zeppelin in 1931, and gathered much significant data on this 8,000 mile cruise around the Arctic Circle. Prior to that trip, he was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard.
Smith had a long association with the Institution, starting with his election as a member of the corporation in 1934, as a trustee in 1945, and continuing until his death at the age of 72. During his directorship he was also appointed to the research staff, although he did not publish nor is there any evidence of his being involved in research during his term of office. His directorship marked the start of the Institution’s permanent growth and modernization, and the rapid growth of US oceanography as the National Academy of Sciences expanded its emphasis on basic research in the sea. The Laboratory of Oceanography was built, and the Institution acquired the craft Bear in 1951 and the USCG Cutter Crawford in 1956, in addition to two airplanes for meteorological and oceanographic observation. The Institution took serious strides in formalizing its graduate program and gained recognition as an institution of higher education. Other highlights of his directorship included the formation of an Associates program and the establishment of an employee retirement plan. Each year from 1950-1956 showed expansion in many areas.
In 1950, one of the most significant events in field study involved the Institution’s participation in a multiple ship synoptic survey of the Gulf Stream. In addition to the Atlantis , the survey also included vessels from the US and Canadian Navies, US aircraft and US Fish and Wildlife. ‘Operation Cabot’ took place under the leadership of Frederick Fuglister. The survey provided significant material for Carl Rossby’s study of upper air meteorology as well as multiple other studies. Additional highlights of 1950 research included: Henry Stommel’s continued work in explaining the development of a thermocline and ways in which heating progressed downward in the sea; and John Brackett Hersey’s observations in underwater acoustics, including the possibility of developing instrumentation to describe the distribution of animals existing in a strip of the ocean while a ship is in motion.
The 1950 annual report and technical reports published that year detailed numerous other projects under study. Forty-six contributions and fifty-seven WHOI technical reports were published, some of which remained classified for many years. Full time staff numbered forty nine scientists, increased threefold in number by support staff, crew and personnel, as well as distinguished visitors, who worked at the Institution during the year for anywhere from a day or two to six months or more. The Atlantis and Caryn saw active use during 1950, along with the small inshore crafts Asterias , Mytilus , and Claire .
WHOI grew in size by approximately twenty percent during 1951. The physical problems of increasingly limited work and residential space forced solutions. One of these included the acceptance, by the trustees, of the Navy’s offer to provide a laboratory building adjacent to the main Bigelow building. However, lengthy negotiations with Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) delayed completion of the new building until 1954. Half the personnel were hired due to the addition of Albatross III , a US Fish and Wildlife Service steel trawler, and Bear , a former naval craft chartered for six months. The renovation of a large barn and five Fay estate residences helped ease residential space problems.
1951 marked one of WHOI’s most productive years to date. There were a wide variety of subjects and range of investigations in progress in deep-water cruises and onshore research. Three deep-water vessels spent 566 cumulative days at sea. Considerable progress continued in the Institution’s ongoing investigation of the Gulf Stream,
Major advances have been achieved in our ability to describe the shallow distributions of temperature and salinity that exist in the sea at any one time and to relate these to the surface currents. At long last the observational approach, the theoretical approach and the experimental approach are all beginning to yield similar results. Not only can the Institution point to a beginning in the publication of these new results, but also we have been able to formulate and initiate a promising program of continuing investigations, both in the field and in the laboratory. No other period at Woods Hole has been more fruitful in physical oceanography.
As a result of the Cabot operation in the Spring of 1950, and as substantiated by the Albatross ’ cruise across the North Atlantic this year, it has become evident that there are many similarities between the Gulf Stream System northeastward of Cape Hatteras and the recently discovered atmospheric jet streams at high altitudes in the belts of prevailing westerly winds. Both phenomena are in all probability dependent on the same fundamental laws of large-scale motions in thin fluid envelopes on a rotating globe. Since the velocities and the time scale are much more favorable for detailed investigations in the case of oceanic jets, the theoretical meteorologists are finding our Gulf Stream surveys of increasing interest. 2
The biologists focused their studies inshore studying pollution caused by waste materials and abnormal concentration of plant growth, and ecology of regional shellfisheries. A bottom survey of the eastern half of the Gulf of Mexico by marine geologists generated much interest. Brackett Hersey and Allyn Vine, who created the basic concept for a fish locator using an echo sound transducer that could be towed, continued studying sound as a tool for exploring the ocean. Maurice “Doc” Ewing’s group at Columbia worked with the WHOI staff on the specialized field of submarine geology.
The Institution continued developing and testing new instrumentation for use in wide-ranging problems. These included a type of diving current meter developed by Willem Malkus, a deep-sea pressure recorder built by Mr. David Frantz, and drifting buoys that report their positions by radio tuned to Loran stations. Additional technological developments remained underway, although much of this work was of a classified nature and reports only became available years later. WHOI published almost a hundred numbered technical reports for 1951 and 41 collected reprints, not including one item in PPOM. Gordon Riley wrote a paper called “Oxygen, Phosphate, and Nitrate in the Atlantic Ocean”, which Smith called “the most original and ambitious contribution to marine biology which has appeared since the end of the war.” 3 The Office of Naval Research continued to be the chief source of contract funding. According to Smith in his Annual Report, the Institution needed to give more attention to enhancing its public relations, as the field of oceanography attracted more interest.
Although WHOI’s working space remained limited, 1952 resulted in a number of noteworthy investigations and achievements, with greater focus on peacetime applicability. Smith cited the following highlights of work in his Annual report for 1952:
Trawling far out on the continental slope where species of fish new to science were caught; and the attending physiological studies carried out on the blood chemistry of deep-living fish.
Field studies of the Northern Equatorial Current, and the improved exposition of these waters by their chemical and biological indices.
Operation of an airplane [a Navy PBY6A on loan to the Institution] in oceanographic-meteorological work, and the development of techniques and special recording instruments.
A new conception of the Gulf Stream’s flow-pattern as derived from laboratory models and field observations.
Expedition Ski-Jump II to the North Polar Sea and the basic question of circulation which the data raises.
The correlation of the number and size of sea-salt particles in clear air beneath clouds, with the number of cloud droplets within the clouds, and with the number and salt content of rain drops falling from these clouds.
A theory was developed that relates the electric potentials in and about an ocean current in simple fashion to the total fluid transport. 4
Atlantis and Albatross III made two long cruises, crossing the trade wind latitudes of the North Atlantic together during the winter months, with a very successful chemical program under the direction of Bostwick Ketchum and Francis Richards. Maurice Ewing and his group from Lamont Geological Observatory used Atlantis and their chartered tug Kevin Moran during the spring and summer to explore the deep geology of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. In September, Atlantis headed south for her first mayor voyage into the South Atlantic. Mr. Fuglister was in charge of the return voyage, which was devoted to the study of currents along the western margin of the Atlantic from Rio to the latitude of the Bahamas. His work charting average temperatures at 200 meters combined more than 60,000 individual observations. This was the first chart of this kind to be published since 1936, when the Atlas Volume of the Meteor reports cited findings at 3,000 available stations. Mainly as a result of the observations made during the summer on the Albatross III, Fuglister also published a new hypothesis on the accumulated data on the Gulf Stream.
The Institution’s Scientific Advisory Committee conducted a visit, interviewed staff members and looked over the laboratories and research program. Allyn Vine, William Von Arx, and Brackett Hersey each presented a paper to the symposium held by the National Research Council in June on various aspects of the needs for instruments in oceanographic work. While there were ample ideas for new instruments, and the Institution was engaged in developing many of these, they stressed the importance of routine practical use of new instrumentation to allow for refinement.
Albatross III returned to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Institution purchased the 100ft. diesel craft Bear under a contract with the Bureau of Ships; she later proved to be an active and useful unit in acoustical field operations. The Navy published Marine Fouling and Its Prevention in 1952, and WHOI published 43 scientific papers, including two for PPOM. There were also over a hundred numbered WHOI technical reports, some of which were classified until a later date. 1952 marked the first year WHOI distributed its technical reports to institutions and individuals outside the Institution. A significant grant from the National Science Foundation financed eight fellowships for an increasingly diverse group of graduate students, and over twenty international visitors, including Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau, spent time at the Institution.
Opportunities were pursued to bring the goals of the Institution closer to the minds of the general public. Smith issued an invitation to several summer residents to tour the Institution and become familiar with its work. As a result of this visit, Mr. Gerard Swope, Jr. and other local residents expressed an interest in helping to further WHOI’s work. This led to the formation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Associates as a non-profit organization to support and promote the goals of oceanographic research. Over forty members were invited into this group and this unique approach to funding research marked one of the highlights of Smith’s directorship.
1953 brought with it one of the Institution’s most adventurous expeditions. Per Scholander went dogsledding over the frozen ice of Frobisher Bay in Baffin land to discover the reason why Arctic fish survive the sub-zero water temperatures. The Cap’n Bill II took three cruises, trawling out along the continental slope from Virginia to Nova Scotia, netted unique specimens, and provided information on the fish and crab populations which indicated the potential of commercial development. Other highlights of the year’s scientific program included the discovery of a chain of sea mounts which trend offshore from the New England shelf; the filament pattern of the inshore edge of the Gulf Stream as observed from the air, thermally and optically; and the use of freed radio telemetering buoys in the vicinity of Bermuda to record wind-drift currents.
The Associates program grew to over 50 members and sponsored excursions on the Atlantis and Blue Dolphin , which included demonstrations of oceanographic instrumentation. The program’s success led to an expansion of the Associate membership to industrial and corporate institutions interested in the science of oceanography.
The number of foreign visitors to WHOI continued to increase, with representatives from Sweden, Japan, Thailand, India, France, and Ireland. Carl Rossby and Bostwick Ketchum received promotions, and the Board of Trustees voted to provide a sabbatical fund for a top scientist or to allow for the continuing education of a promising younger scientist. William von Arx, the first scientist to take advantage of this program, studied at MIT.
Also in 1953, forty-two scientific papers were published, and Henry Bigelow and William Schroeder published their book, Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. Two long papers were published in PPOM, as well as 97 WHOI technical reports.
WHOI’s vessels began to show signs of aging and incurred higher maintenance costs. Throughout the year the Institution conducted a study and recommendations in an effort to ultimately replace US oceanographic vessels with more modern designed ships. One of the study’s features included a recommendation for marked improvement in reduction of the noise factor on shipboard. A committee with representatives from WHOI and the Office of Naval Research undertook plans to initiate designs and estimates for a modern ocean-class research vessel, with hopes for appropriations and actual construction.
In 1954, research at WHOI was directed toward the question of rate of exchange between the surface water and depth of the ocean and the problems of deeper circulation. Related to this was the feasibility of using the ocean as a safe dumping site for radioactive waste, a new by-product of the atomic age. The development of new tools and equipment designed to reduce or replace time spent at sea was also being aggressively pursued. Several “firsts” cited in the annual report for the year included: field observations and statistical studies of the secular decrease of oxygen over the whole western North Atlantic at depths greater than 2500 meters; the Labrador Expedition by the Institution’s physiological group; the cooperative meteorological expedition to the Hawaiian Islands to investigate the processes which produce rain from warm marine clouds; evaluation of the oxygen and the C-14 methods, respectively, of determining photosynthetic activity in the ocean; the establishment of a laboratory of radio-isotope techniques as applied to oceanographic problems.
The establishment of corporate membership to the Associates program brought the growing number of Associates to 124 individuals and 13 corporation members. The General Foods Corporation made the largest single gift to the Institution with the donation of its former marine base in East Boston. This proved to be unsuitable for Institution use and was offered for sale. The Institution continued to develop new ways to expand its financial resources, including the formulation of a policy for adding capital to the endowment fund, stated in a brochure entitled “Perpetuating Your Love of the Sea.” Funding from Department of Defense and National Science Foundation contracts still proved a significant source of income. The Office of Naval Research delivered the keys to the new Laboratory of Oceanography (later re-named Smith Building in honor of the director) at its dedication on June 21, fulfilling yet another collaborative partnership between the Navy and WHOI.
WHOI received another airplane, a Stinson Voyager, from the Navy that joined the PBY airplane in meteorological service. Continued thought and planning went toward replacing the older vessels, all of which fortunately survived the two severe hurricanes that struck the New England coast in August and September of 1954. The pier and institution property, including the laboratory, suffered significant damage due to exceedingly high water.
Publication of scientific contributions continued to increase, with a total of 60 papers published and 92 WHOI technical reports.
Director Smith’s term of office was notable primarily for the administrative and financial organization that he incorporated into the structure of the Institution. In 1955, a milestone occurred when the Office of Education of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare approved WHOI as an institution of higher education. As a result, and largely due to Smith’s efforts, US Coast Guard Cutter turned the title to Crawford over to WHOI.
Scientific tasks undertaken in 1955 included the Atlantis Marine Geologic Expedition to Peru; continued acoustical investigations of the ocean; inauguration of long-range statistical studies of East Coast shelf waters; continued field investigations of the western North Atlantic deep water; investigation of sea level changes accompanying severe gales and hurricanes; and continued theoretical studies of oceanic circulation.
The Associates program expanded to 142 individual members and 26 corporation members during 1955. They provided support for a variety of projects in 1955, including the establishment of an annual summer lectureship to bring a distinguished visiting scientist to Woods Hole and the partial underwriting of an ocean geophysical expedition to the island arc of the West Indies. The year also marked the beginning of a fellowship program, which consisted of funds from the endowment income and contributions from the Associates, to provide grants and aid to qualified students and visiting investigators. The newsletter Oceanus, started in 1952, was published and distributed to the Associates on a quarterly basis.
The Steering Committee organized by the Office of Naval Research completed preliminary drawings and descriptions for a new oceanographic vessel, with expectations that the Navy’s annual budget would include funding for more detailed design studies. Publications increased twenty percent in 1955 with seventy-two contributions and seventy-three WHOI technical reports produced.
On August 16, 1956, Edward H. Smith offered his resignation as Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, having reached retirement age and not wishing to remain in office beyond his six year term of appointment. Columbus Iselin, who succeeded Smith, noted in the annual report for 1956 that Smith felt the major accomplishments of the year were: “a considerable increase in the number of papers published; the acquisition and reconditioning of the 125-ft. diesel-powered Crawford which marked a major investment in research vessels comparable to the building of the Atlantis twenty-five years ago; and the strengthening of the educational character of the Institution through an increased budget for lectureships, seminars, and fellowships.” 5
Smith’s directorship, one of program expansion - with cruises venturing beyond the Gulf of Maine and the Western North Atlantic, was noted for the order he brought to the Institution, even though the Board of Trustees turned down his proposal for a departmental organizational structure. Smith’s term as director will also be remembered as a time of extended financial support through the Associates Program, which brought many friends to the Institution, and generally broadened outreach to the public. The implementation of retirement, fellowship and sabbatical programs increased employee benefits. The Institution also gained stature and recognition in the academic world by becoming a certified institution of higher learning, a step which led not only to the acquisition of the Crawford, but also to a growing number of new students and scientists to carry forward its mission. Paul Fye later recalled his predecessor with these words: "Smith was mostly a military man whose sense of order pervaded his directorship. He was known for his 'white glove' inspections of the Institution’s shops and ships on Friday afternoons and we have never been done up in such Bristol-fashion either before or since." 6
- 1 Edward H. Smith, "A Practical Method for Determining Ocean Currents,"United States Coast Guard Bulletin 14 (1926): 50.
- 2 Edward H. Smith, "Director’s Report,"Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Report for the Year 1951 (1952): 20.
- 3 Ibid., p.30.
- 4 Edward H. Smith, "Director’s Report,"Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Report for the Year 1952 (1953): 9.
- 5 Edward H. Smith, "Director’s Report,"Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Report for the Year 1956 (1957): 10.
- 6 Paul M. Fye, "The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: A Commentary," inOceanography: The Past (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1980), 3.
4 box(es) (5 linear feet)
The records of the Director (Smith) are divided into nine series. Frank C. Ryder, Assistant to the Director who handled correspondence for him, also has files in the series for Individuals; Institutions; and Subject Files; that appear at the end of Smith’s (box 16). The series are arranged chronologically in alphabetical order, and consist mostly of correspondence.
In 1960, the materials were moved from the Office of the Director to a new vault in the Blake Building. In 1971, both the Archives and the Data Library moved to the Data and Earth Sample Center Building, now the Crawford Building, on WHOI’s Quissett campus. In 1981, the Archives, containing the director’s files, moved to its current location in the basement of the McLean Building.
The archival collection of Admiral Edward H. Smith, WHOI Director, 1950-1956 was transferred into archival storage in 1960.
Series from the Office of the Director (P. Fye)
There are nine cartons (10 linear feet), nominally under Paul Fye’s directorship, which contain records dating from 1950 onward, with a few from the 1940s. Prior to Paul Fye’s appointment in 1958, Columbus Iselin served briefly as interim director from 1956-1958, and all the materials from this period were incorporated into Fye’s records as director. Records of the Office of the Director (Fye) containing materials from Smith and Iselin are located in boxes 19-25, 27-29. The directors’ files of Edward Smith date only up through 1953. All later materials are located in successor’s files.
The following series in Fye's materials contain files from the Office of the Director (Smith):
- Executive - Materials from Smith’s administration are in boxes 19-20. The series is arranged chronologically then alphabetically and dates from 1953 onward. The series consists of correspondence, meeting minutes, memoranda and notes, and contains information about meetings, committees, buildings, programs, policies, fellowships, research vessels, and personnel.
- Grants and Contracts - Records from Smith’s tenure are in box 20. The series dates from 1953 onward, with several files dating back to 1942. Files are arranged chronologically then alphabetically by grant source, and contain correspondence, memoranda, research proposals, and reports regarding specific government contracts but not the contract itself. The files contain a chronology for Project SWOP, part of Office of Naval Research grant 769 (box 20, f. 38). Falling within this series are Terminated Contracts: Original, executed, dating from 1942-1963 (boxes 28, 29), which contain contract files from various government branches, predominantly from the Air Force, Bureau of Aeronautics, Bureau of Ordnance, Bureau of Ships, Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Naval Research, and US Weather Bureau. The Activities series records for 1954-1959 also contain numerous files on National Science Foundation grants (box 22, ff.10-35).
- Institutions - Records from Smith’s administration are in box 20. The series spans the years 1951 onward and consists of four folders of correspondence, memos and reports arranged alphabetically. The correspondence relates solely to government offices and people regarding contract-generated publications.
- Reports - Records from Smith’s directorship are in box 20. Previously called Contract Reports under Smith’s administration, this series contains six folders dating from 1948 to1957. Materials are alphabetically arranged, and consist of memos and correspondence relating to the publication and distribution of government contracts and reports, including requests for contract extensions.
- Activities - Records from Smith’s directorship are located in boxes 21 to 23. The series documents activities both internal to, and outside of the Institution. Materials consist of correspondence, grants, minutes, memoranda, bulletins, notes, reports, magazine articles, and newspaper clippings. Records are filed chronologically by year then alphabetically, and cover the years 1951 onward. The records contain information relating to government agencies and offices; US Senate and House of Representatives; corporations and foundations; committees; academic institutions; scientific organizations and institutions; WHOI property, ships, expeditions, and department administration; grants; personnel; community relations; and personal files. The series also includes files of National Science Foundation grants (box 20 ff.10-35).
- Individuals - Records from Smith’s directorship are in boxes 23 and 24. Records date from 1952 onward, and consist of files on people. Materials are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically and by individual’s names. Materials include correspondence, photographs, brochures, reports and newspaper articles. The series includes letters and a cruise track sent by Val Worthington to Iselin concerning work aboard Crawford and Discovery II in 1957 during the International Geophysical Year (IGY), with mention of George Deacon and Swallow (box 24, f.12).
- Personnel - Records from Smith’s directorship are in box 24. The series spans the years 1949 onward. Materials are arranged chronologically by year, then alphabetically. The series contains correspondence, manuscripts, notes, curriculum vitae, and memoranda. There are also ‘retiree’ files that are found throughout the series.
- Ships and Planes - Records from Smith’s directorship are in boxes 24 and 25. The series spans the years 1954 onward and is arranged chronologically then alphabetically.
Processing of the collection was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the Friends of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. Processed by Brenda Rocklage and Margot Garritt. While processing the collection, folder titles were often abbreviated, however in the box listing they were spelled out for clarification.
- A Guide to the WHOI Office of the Director records, (Admiral Edward Hanson Smith), 1950-1956
- Margot Garritt
- December 1998
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written inEnglish