Obituary Notice: Renowned Geophysicist: George G. Shor, Jr.


George G. Shor, Jr., professor emeritus of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, died July 3, 2009, at his home in La Jolla, Calif., from complications following several strokes. He was 86 years old. Shor's distinguished career included helping develop the nation's consortium of research ships operated by oceanographic institutions and participating in the creation of the California Sea Grant program.

Shor was born June 8, 1923, in New York, NY. He received his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1944. He joined the Naval Reserve and served in World War II as an electronics officer and communications officer, with duty in the Pacific theater on a ship that transported troops. After the war, he remained in the Naval Reserve until his retirement as commander in 1983.

In the fall of 1946 he returned to Caltech for graduate work in geophysics and received an M.S. degree in 1948. He then worked for Seismic Explorations, Inc. (SEI), based in Houston, which had a number of crews prospecting for oil. He worked in New Mexico and west Texas, and by 1949 he led the operations of one of the company's crews.

In 1951 Shor returned to Caltech for his Ph.D. in seismology and geology. His advisor was the noted earthquake expert Charles Richter. Shor received his Ph.D. in 1954, with a dissertation on recording blasts to reach the Mohorovicic discontinuity, the boundary layer between the earth's crust and mantle, the depth of which varies from about 3 miles beneath the ocean floor to about 25 miles beneath the continents.

In 1953 Shor began work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography as an assistant research geophysicist at the Marine Physical Laboratory, and he continued with that unit until his retirement in 1991. During his decades at Scripps, he advised many graduate students.

Shor planned and served as chief scientist on many research expeditions at sea, where he carried out studies of the structure beneath the seafloor, using refraction and reflection techniques, from explosives to air guns. His early work was in the Gulf of Alaska, a region then little known for its geologic history. In 1960 he led the first leg of the first expedition by Scripps into the Indian Ocean, part of the International Indian Ocean Expeditions. His research continued in that region, and he became a special adviser to the Committee for Coordination of Joint Prospecting for Mineral Resources in Asian Offshore Areas (CCOP) from 1976 to 1991.

Project Mohole was established in the mid-1950s an attempt to retrieve a sample of material from the earth's mantle by drilling a hole through the earth's crust to the Mohorovicic discontinuity, or Moho. If successful, this highly ambitious exploration of the intraterrestrial frontier would provide invaluable information on the earth's age, makeup, and internal processes. In addition, evidence drawn from the Moho could be brought to bear on the question of continental drift, which at the time was still controversial. Shor served on some of the Mohole Project's committees and scheduled several expeditions to determine geologic structure. He and his colleague Russell W. Raitt identified the best location to drill the hole, off Hawaii. The project was ended by Congress before drilling could begin.

In the 1960s Shor helped to establish the California Sea Grant program, headquartered at Scripps and involving a number of California universities. He served as its manager from 1969 to 1973. The organization founded a great many studies on marine subjects within the state.

Shor was chairman of two divisions at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. From 1968 until his 1991 retirement he served as an Associate Director of the institution, primarily for seagoing operations and management of the institution's fleet of research ships. He participated in the establishment of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), which coordinates operations of the research ships operated by oceanographic institutions.

Shor was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Miscellaneous Society, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Seismological Society and Sigma Xi.

After his retirement he took a keen interest in bamboo. He served as president of the American Bamboo Society (ABS) for two years and helped to establish the Southern California Chapter of ABS.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Scripps historian Elizabeth (Betty) Noble Shor of La Jolla, Calif.; son Alexander of Honolulu, Hawaii; daughter Carolyn Large of Dixon, Calif.; son Donald of Dixon, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.

The family suggests donations in his memory be made to Scripps Institution of Oceanography for its valuable oceanographic research collections or to Friends of the International Center at UC San Diego for scholarships. Checks payable to the UC San Diego Foundation can be sent to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Development Office, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0210, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0210. Donations also can be made online at For more information, contact Development Manager Edwina Riblet 858-534-7793 or

Plans for a memorial service are pending.

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