Obituary Notice "Father of Space Oceanography" Robert E. Stevenson


Dr. Robert E. Stevenson, 80, of Princeville, Kauai, died at Wilcox Memorial Hospital in Hawaii on Sunday, Aug. 12, of cancer. He was born in Fullerton, Calif., on Jan. 15, 1921. He was a resident of Del Mar, Calif., from 1970-1999.

Stevenson was a retired oceanographer and had served as the director of the branch Office of Naval Research (ONR) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in La Jolla, Calif., from 1970 to 1988. He received numerous awards during his career, including the Meritorious Civilian Service Award from the Department of the Navy, "for consistently maintaining a high level of scientific achievement while serving as Scientific Liaison Officer, ONR, SIO.”

Stevenson was a World War II veteran, serving in the United States Army Air Corps. He was navigator of a B-17 and completed 29 missions in the European theatre. His unit, the 306th bomb group, flew first over Germany and flew two missions on D-Day. During the Korean War, he worked in Alaska on classified photo reconnaissance as a squadron commander.

Stevenson received a Ph.D. degree in oceanography from the University of Southern California in 1954.

Career Highlights:

1953-59 Director of Inshore Research, Hancock Foundation, USC

1959 Special Research Oceanographer, U.S. Office of Naval Research, London, England

1961-63 Research Scientist in the Dept. of Oceanography and Director of the Marine Lab, Texas A&M University

1963-65 Research Scientist, Oceanographic Institute, and Associate Professor, Depts. of Geology and Meteorology, Florida State University

1965-70 Assistant Laboratory Director and Acting Laboratory Director, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, Biological Laboratory, Galveston, Tex.

1970-85 Scientific Liaison Officer, Office of Naval Research, SIO, La Jolla

1985-88 Scientific Liaison Officer and Deputy Director, Space Oceanography, ONR, SIO, La Jolla

From his NASA-Gemini days in the 1960s to the present time, Stevenson served as an oceanographer consultant to many astronauts.

Dr. Paul Scully-Power, director of Space Exploration for Australia, said, "Bob Stevenson was the Father of Space Oceanography. He instructed each and every one of them [the astronauts] in the greatest of all endeavours looking at Mother Earth and understanding what they saw, and recording that which was new. In this sense, he is singularly responsible for one of the greatest treasure troves of knowledge that we have today of the Earth."

In 1987 Stevenson was appointed the Secretary General of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (IAPSO) and served an eight-year term. In this position, he brought oceanographers from around the world together to share knowledge in support of oceanographic research. He organized and conducted two major International Scientific Oceanographic Assemblies as part of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, in Vienna in 1991, and in Honolulu in 1995. In addition to working as Secretary General for IAPSO, Stevenson continued to work as a consultant to NASA instructing astronauts on earth observation from space.

At the time of his death, he was writing an instructional CD-ROM on space oceanography for astronauts, co-authored with Scully-Power.

Stevenson is survived by his wife, Jeani Stevenson of Princeville; and two sons, Robert K. Stevenson of Fullerton, Calif., and Michael G. Stevenson and his wife, Mary, of Alexandria, Va.; a granddaughter, Caprice; and numerous cousins.

A memorial service was held in Hawaii on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Sign Up For
Explorations Now

explorations now is the free award-winning digital science magazine from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Join subscribers from around the world and keep up on our cutting-edge research.