Obituary Notice Pioneer in Marine Chemistry and Ocean Pollution Research: Edward Goldberg


Edward D. Goldberg, a world-renowned marine chemist who spent more than half a century at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, died Friday, March 7, 2008, at his home in Olivenhain, Calif., after a prolonged illness. He was 86 years old. Goldberg has been affiliated with Scripps since 1949 and focused his long career on marine science as well as complex environmental problems facing the world.

Among his most noted work was his identification of tributyltin as a toxic chemical in marine paint fouling California harbors and in the creation of the 1975 EPA-sponsored Mussel Watch program to observe U.S. coastal marine pollution.

"Today Scripps Oceanography and the entire marine community have lost a great champion for the ocean and for the environment," said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "Ed Goldberg earned the reputation not only as an extraordinary marine chemist, but also as an engaging professor who truly inspired his students. He was always willing to tackle the tough issues facing the marine environment and our harbors and seas are better off due to Ed's enduring dedication and commitment."

Born in Sacramento, Calif., on August 2, 1921, Goldberg received a B.S. degreein chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1942, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1949. He served as a naval officer in the Pacific during World War II.

Throughout his career, Goldberg's scientific interests included the geochemistry of natural waters and sediments, the demography of the coastal zone, and the history of waste management and marine pollution. His research programs included factors governing the behaviors of platinum-group metals in the environment and the role of submicron particles in oceanic chemistries.

He worked as a postgraduate at the University of Chicago under Harrison Brown, whom he considered his mentor, and Brown influenced him to work on geochemistry and meteoritics. In fact, Goldberg proudly called himself Harrison Brown's first graduate student. Goldberg found Brown interested not simply in science, but in the problems of mankind - survival, food supply, population, and disease. Years later, Goldberg followed his mentor's lead by involving himself both in science and the environment. In 1949 Brown recommended Goldberg to Roger Revelle, oceanographer and Scripps director, who sought a geochemist for Scripps Oceanography who would contribute to environmental studies of seawater using trace elements, studies of ocean sediments, studies of ocean pollution, and questions related to the carbon cycle.

In 1954 he participated in the first scientific study of the environmental effects of the White's Point and Hyperion sewage outfalls in Santa Monica Bay.

In the 1970s Goldberg and his colleague initiated studies of lead in the marine environment that were groundbreaking and influential. In the 1980s Goldberg became concerned with reports of decimation in the oyster fishery and other shellfish near marinas. Goldberg sampled water in California harbors and identified the problem as tributyltin, a toxic chemical then routinely added as an antifouling agent to marine paints by the U.S. Navy and the marine commercial industry. Goldberg's work persuaded the U.S. Navy to eliminate the chemical, and his work was instrumental in setting new environmental standards for harbors.

In 1975 he initiated the Mussel Watch, a surveillance program on U.S. coastal marine pollution for the Environmental Protection Agency. The program was designed to monitor the key properties of pollutants that were challenging the integrity of marine waters and led to additional contaminant monitoring programs in U.S. coastal waters.

Goldberg's colleagues often cite his dedication to his role as professor and mentor to his many graduate students at Scripps.

Goldberg wrote more than 225 scientific articles and many books on marine chemistry and the human impact on the oceans. His books include, Marine Chemistry, published in1974; Strategies for Marine Pollution Monitoring, 1976); The Health of the Oceans, published by UNESCO in 1976; Black Carbon in the Environment, in 1985; and Coastal Zone Space: Prelude to Conflict?, in1994. The Health of the Oceans was considered the definitive statement on marine pollution at the time of its publication and in the book, Goldberg set up the framework for his Mussel Watch Program. With support from the EPA, scientists analyzed mollusks from 100 stations along the American coast collecting data and found them very sensitive to environmental changes. The program was so successful it became international. With Scripps colleagues Robert L. Fisher and Charles Cox, he edited a centennial history of Scripps Institution of Oceanography entitled, Coming of Age: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in 2003; its chapters are vignettes of 16 world-class scientific pioneers from Scripps' first century.

In 1960 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent a year at the Physikalisches Institut, University of Bern, Switzerland, studying the rates of accumulation of glaciers. In 1970 as a senior NATO fellow at the Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique in Brussels, Belgium, he investigated pollution of the North Sea. In 1988 he was a National Academy of Sciences exchange scholar at the Rudjer Boskovic Institute in Yugoslavia.

Goldberg received many honors and awards including the initial Bostwick H. Ketchum Award for his leadership in environmental research in coastal and open oceans in 1984. He received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1989 together with Dr. Paul Crutzen, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Goldberg was cited for having "dedicated much of his scientific career to monitoring the effects of and finding solutions to societal insults to the marine environment." During the presentation in Los Angeles, the presenters noted, "scientists and policy makers now have an increased knowledge of the contamination levels of coastal waters in most parts of the world. And the pollution measurements in different laboratories are being made on a comparable basis." In 1999 he was awarded the first-ever Ruth Patrick Award for Environmental Problem Solving in the Aquatic Sciences from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography for his lifelong scientific research achievements in marine pollution.

Goldberg was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Goldberg is survived by his wife Kathe Bertine Goldberg, a retired professor of geosciences at San Diego State University, of Olivenhain, Calif.; sister Gloria Kaplan of El Cerrito, Calif., son David of San Diego, Calif.; daughter Wendy Goldberg Newton of Portland, Ore.; daughter Kiri Goldberg Rubin of Phoenix, Ariz.; daughter Beck Goldberg of San Diego, Calif., and three grandchildren, Andy, Elissa, and Sasha. A memorial service will be held at Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Martin Johnson House, 8840 Biological Grade, La Jolla, Calif., on Saturday, March 29, at 2 p.m. The family requests donations to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Geosciences Research Division, payable to UC Regents, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0210, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0210.

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.