Obituary Notice: Prominent Research Biologist: Edward Brinton


Edward "Ed" Brinton, a research biologist who spent his entire scientific career at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, died peacefully after a long illness on Jan. 13, 2010, a day after his 86th birthday.

Born in Richmond, Ind., in 1924, Brinton joined Scripps Oceanography in 1950 as a graduate student after earning a bachelor's degree from Haverford College in Haverford, Penn. and a master's degree from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Penn.

After arriving at Scripps, Brinton began studying euphausiids, small, shrimp-like crustaceans known as krill, animals that baleen whales, fish, birds and other animals feed upon. His 1958 doctoral dissertation, "The Distribution of Pacific Euphausiids," became an important publication in biological oceanography.

"His contributions to our understanding of the biology of the open ocean have been great," said John McGowan, a Scripps professor emeritus and longtime colleague of Brinton's.

After earning his Ph.D., Brinton remained with Scripps as a research biologist in the Marine Life Research Group, part of the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI), a groundbreaking ocean monitoring program established more than 60 years ago.

Brinton's research included detailing the significant biogeographical provinces of the Pacific Ocean and the large-scale patterns of open-ocean diversity, integrating the roles of physical oceanography and ocean circulation. Brinton also led studies describing how climatic variations have led to corresponding variations in the California Current, including to its marine ecosystems. His later research centered on Antarctic krill during several expeditions to that continent in the 1980s.

Brinton described six krill species, published more than 64 papers and, in collaboration with Margaret Knight, deciphered the complicated life histories of many euphausiid species.

He was highly regarded in the international scientific community and his contributions were recognized in a formal tribute from the international GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics) program. He served as a major advisor and chief scientist for the State Department-sponsored Naga expeditions in the Gulf of Thailand and as curator of the UNESCO-sponsored Indian Ocean Biological Center in Cochin, India.

"Ed had a warm circle of friends and collaborators, both at Scripps and at many foreign laboratories," said McGowan. "Those of us who knew him remember him not only as an accomplished scientist but as a sincere and good-hearted friend and a great companion at both parties and wakes. He had a real and active concern for the less fortunate in life. He will be greatly missed."

A 1995 Scripps Explorations magazine dedication to Brinton noted that he was quick with a smile and laughter, and warmed the hearts of all who knew him. His goodwill, both at Scripps and abroad, created an international network of colleagues, friends and students.

"I have never met a (krill) sample I didn't like," read a quote from Brinton in the article. "We will never fully understand the variability of life in the oceans. But please don't fault us for trying."

Brinton was husband to the late Desiree Ward Brinton; father of David Brinton, Eric Brinton and his wife Jane Weinzierl, Nick Brinton and his wife Elizabeth Brinton, Joanna Temple and her husband Chris Temple; and grandfather to Elena, Gwen, Terry, Rosemary, Liam and Kellen; brother to Catharine Cary, Joan Erickson and the late Lydia Forbes.

Memorial services for Brinton will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6th from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the La Jolla Friends Meeting House (7380 Eads Ave, La Jolla, Calif., 92037) and continuing from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Martin Johnson House on the Scripps Oceanography campus.

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