Arthur E. Maxwell Graduate Fellowship in Geophysics

Aug 29, 2002 | Graduate Fellowships

Arthur Eugene Maxwell was early lured by the sea, during his youth in Southern California. He joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and served as a quartermaster assigned to working on nautical charts. After the Navy, he went to New Mexico State University and completed a BS in physics with honors. He received an offer of a fellowship at Stanford University in physics. Fortunately, while driving back to New Mexico from an interview at Stanford, he read a two-page article about Scripps Institution of Oceanography in Life magazine. He decided to stop at Scripps and ended up spending a day talking to Walter Munk and another physicist, Dean Rusk. A week later, he drove up to Scripps, knocked on Walter’s door and said, “Can I apply as a graduate student?” As a graduate, he worked with Walter Munk, Sir Edward Bullard, John Isaacs and Roger Revelle; in fact, he was Roger Revelle’s first graduate student.

Dr. Arthur E. Maxwell

He was fortunate during his first year in graduate school (1949) to be assigned to work with Sir Edward Bullard, who was investigating ocean basin heat flow. Heat flow studies became the basis of his thesis research. In 1950, during the Midpac Expedition, he helped to record the first successful heat flow measurements at sea. These, combined with successful recordings during the 1952 Capricorn Expedition, produced pioneering results in ocean geothermal measurements. He completed his master’s degree in 1952 and left Scripps in 1955, while working on his Ph.D., to work at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) on the organization for the first International Geophysical Year (1957-1958).

Dr. Maxwell spent ten productive years (1955-1965) with ONR in Washington, D.C., where he held the positions of Head Oceanographer and Head of the Geophysics Branch. He pushed for ONR to support academic oceanographic research. With Gordon Lill, Feenan Jennings and others, he produced the seminal report “Ten Years in Oceanography” (TENOC), which spelled out for the first time a long-range plan for ONR to develop a strong academic program in oceanography. This helped the academic community gain access to a series of Navy research ships. He advocated and pressed for early support of submersible research using Trieste. He was responsible for the procurement of the Trieste by the Navy. His efforts encouraged the Navy to develop a deep-submersible program. He helped establish the Interagency Committee on Oceanography (ICO).

While at ONR, Dr. Maxwell was active in the development of scientific ocean drilling through participation in the American Miscellaneous Society. That informal group first proposed deep sea drilling, which eventually progressed to Project Mohole, the Deep Sea Drilling Project, the Ocean Margin Drilling Program, the Ocean Drilling Program, and today the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Dr. Maxwell was awarded the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service and Superior Civilian Service Awards. He also received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from the Secretary of the Navy for his work in locating the sunken submarine Thresher in the 1960s.

In 1965, he joined the staff of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as Senior Scientist and Associate Director. During the next seventeen years, he progressed through the positions of Associate Director, Director of Research and Provost.

Dr. Maxwell was Co-Chief Scientist, in 1968, with Richard Von Herzen of WHOI, on Leg 3 of the Deep Sea Drilling Project using the drilling vessel Glomar Challenger. During that voyage, in the South Atlantic, they drilled a series of deep holes across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The recovered data produced some of the first direct geologic evidence available to support the now widely accepted theories of sea floor spreading and plate tectonics.

While at Woods Hole, he assisted Paul Fye, the Director, in establishing a joint graduate degree program in oceanography involving both MIT and WHOI. The Joint Program today is one of the world’s best in producing Ph.D.s in the ocean sciences and engineering.

During his tenure at WHOI, the Quissett Campus was acquired and a substantive building construction program began, which continues at WHOI to this day. He was instrumental in arranging for the East Coast marine group of the U.S. Geological Survey to locate on the Quissett Campus. He also oversaw a solid growth of the scientific staff at the Institution.
On January 1, 1982, Dr. Maxwell came to The University of Texas at Austin as the first director of the newly formed Institute for Geophysics (UTIG). His efforts over the next 12 years were instrumental in developing UTIG into one of the leading marine geology and geophysical research institutions in the world.

He supervised the relocation of the research staff from Galveston to Austin, which led to an increase in research staff from 14 to 31; an increase in graduate student involvement from 10 to 49; increased interaction with other UT Austin departments and other universities, both national and international; an increase in seismic data processing capabilities from a dedicated minicomputer system to a supercomputer-based commercial seismic data processing system, and workstation-based geophysical interpretation.

He was also responsible for a substantial increase in NSF funding to the Institute during his tenure, from less than $500K to a high of $3.5M (1987). He proposed and obtained an annual Student Cruise allotment from State funds, which has since funded over 16 student training cruises. He was responsible for obtaining a $250K challenge grant from Palisades Geophysical Institute (PGI) and raising $250K matching funds to establish an endowment for the Ewing-Worzel Fellowship Fund for graduate student support. He also obtained a $300K grant from PGI which was matched to provide a $600K endowment for Postdoctoral Fellowships support and a $300K grant from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation for research support for climate-based studies.

He supported the UTIG acquisition of the first academic 3-D seismic survey; the development of the UTIG heat flow measurement tool, and the development of the digital UTIG Ocean Bottom Seismometer.

Dr. Maxwell was also instrumental in the Institute’s becoming a member of Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES), in 1982, and later providing a home and support for the JOIDES Office, run by a senior scientist at UTIG, Dr. James T Austin, Jr., for two years (1990-1992). Through Maxwell’s encouragement, the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc./U.S. Science Advisory Committee (JOI/USSAC) science support program was established. UTIG housed the secretariat for program for the first 5 years. Under his leadership, UTIG provided a home and support for the initiation of the IRIS Data Management Facility. His efforts brought the CASERTZ airborne geophysical (Antarctica) experiment to UTIG, and the success of CASERTZ has led to the establishment of the Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research (SOAR) facility at UTIG.

His participation in state, national and international activities includes the Massachusetts Governor’s Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, the National Sea Grant Review Panel, and the Alaska Governor’s Commission for Ocean Advancement through Science and Technology. He has chaired both the U.S. National Committee on Geology and the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), in addition to serving on the Finance Committee of IUGG. Dr. Maxwell has served on a number of National Academy of Sciences–National Research Council committees. President Richard Nixon appointed him to The National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere from 1972 to 1975, and he headed the U.S. Delegation to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. He was Chairman of the JOIDES Executive Committee and served on the JOI Board of Governors. He served on the Outer Continental Shelf/Environmental Studies Program Committee of the National Research Council. He also served for many years as a member of the Sea Grant National Advisory Panel, the Academic Advisory Panel for a subcommittee of the Technology Transfer Intelligence Committee of the CIA, and the Gulf of Mexico Regional Research Board.

Dr. Maxwell has served on advisory committees and boards of many universities and institutions, including Harvard College, Department of Geological Sciences; Princeton University, Department of Geological and Geophysical Sciences; University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Studies; University of Colorado, CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences); New Mexico State University, Department of Physics; Palisades Geophysical Institute; Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Boston Museum of Science.

He was elected President of both the American Geophysical Union and the Marine Technology Society. In addition, he received the New Mexico University’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Outstanding Centennial Alumnus Award.

Art Maxwell’s retirement in 1994 represented the passage of an era of true deep sea explorers, whose love of the sea took them into oceanography. The group of which he was a leader totally changed the way we look at the world. Art Maxwell occupied key positions at critical times during the “institutionalization” of oceanography in the United States. He has had many great achievements in his distinguished career. His contributions to setting the national agenda while at SIO, ONR, WHOI, NAS/OSB, AMSOC and UTIG are numerous.

He set the style of civility and intellectual partnership between grantor and grantee, bureaucrat and scientist, professor and student, researcher and technician and extended these relationships to the international community. His staff, friends and colleagues remember him most for his patience, thoughtfulness, concern and professionalism that have greatly encouraged many, both as scientists and as individuals.

Dr. Austin fully funded the creation of the Arthur E. Maxwell Graduate Fellowship in Geophysics to honor a man whom he first met as a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography in the 1970s. “I did not know him well then,” Dr. Austin says, “but he struck me as wise about the ocean sciences.” They renewed their professional association and deepened their personal friendship when Maxwell became the Director of UTIG in 1982 and Austin was one of its scientists based in Galveston. “Once again,” he recalls, “I saw a man full of wisdom, very people-oriented, and with a long-term view of what our lab could become.” As mentioned earlier, the Director was primarily responsible for moving UTIG from Galveston to the Texas capital and Austin believes that Dr. Maxwell “essentially saved it from oblivion.” “He had an excellent relationship with Gerhard Fonken, then Vice President for research, and with that relationship in hand he almost single-handedly got us started in a solid way in Austin,” says Dr. Austin.

When asked why he wanted to recognize Dr. Maxwell with this fellowship (along with a similarly-named one he also established at WHOI), Dr. Austin explained, “Art Maxwell is one of the most human, and humane, administrators that I have ever served under. He looks beyond the success of a lab to the morale of its staff, ALL of its staff (scientific, technical, administrative). And he is extraordinary in being so self-effacing, despite the enormous amount of credit we all owe him for the years he served us so well as Director (1982-1994). A man like that needs someone else to give him that visible thanks.”

Originally intended to provide financial support to full-time graduate students who are conducting research at UTIG, Dr. Austin recently requested a change in the Fellowship’s purpose in order to serve the needs of UTIG’s annual course in field-based geophysical techniques. “I hope,” he says “that this course and perhaps others like it will play an important role in UTIG and the Jackson School in years to come.”

Dr. Maxwell feels greatly honored that a colleague of his has established an endowment in his name. “The fellowship,” he says, “reflects my conviction to the support of graduate students and education in general.” As to his wishes about what it will accomplish, he characteristically puts the focus on others: “Along with Jamie Austin, I hope this support assists a graduate student(s) in obtaining the best education possible. A good graduate reflects on the reputation of the Jackson School and The University of Texas.”

In 2012, Dr. Arthur E. Maxwell will be inducted into the Jackson School’s Hall of Distinction. This honor pays tribute to individuals who are or were strongly affiliated with the School and who have achieved exceptional distinction and standing in academia, industry or government.

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