Obituary Notice: Stuart M. Smith


Note: A Celebration of Life for Stu Smith will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito, 1036 Solana Drive, Solana Beach.  All are welcome.

Stuart M. Smith of Del Mar, Calif., a specialist in submarine geology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, died on September 4, 2016, at the Encinitas Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He was 80.

Smith was born in Waterbury, Conn. on April 28, 1936.  Following a bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and a master’s at Harvard, both in geology, he became a graduate research geologist at Scripps in 1960 and then rose through the assistant and associate ranks of the academic specialist ladder to the rank of (full) specialist in submarine geology in 1974, a rank he held until retirement in 2000.

For most of those years and until retirement, Smith headed the Geological Data Center (GDC) at Scripps. Launched by Prof. William Menard more than 40 years ago, the role of the GDC is to archive and provide access to marine geological and geophysical data, particularly from Scripps vessels. Originally, the holdings were paper logs and data printouts. Under Smith’s leadership, the GDC began a transition to a modern era of digital products and web access, working to ensure that scientifically valuable data were widely accessible to support future science. At the national level, Smith served on a number of committees and task groups under the National Academy of Sciences, UNESCO, and other bodies to develop and improve methods for the intake, verification, editing, and archiving of various marine geophysical data streams. Accuracy of data and essential related information (time, date, position, and more) were and remain central priorities.

Today, the GDC continues to safeguard research vessel data. As a partner in the Rolling Deck to Repository (R2R) program, it ensures that data collected routinely from the fleet of U.S. academic research vessels are gathered, described, and submitted to the National Centers for Environmental Information for permanent archiving and public access.

The GDC also supports the International Ocean Discovery Program, providing a portal to data supporting scientific ocean drilling proposals. And, even in this digital age, it still curates the historic data rolls and cruise logbooks of the previous era.

Smith supported the GDC with his expertise throughout his life. He continued to consult with GDC staff, educating the new generation about the historic holdings, as recently as this past summer.

In retirement Smith and his wife Carol took advantage of opportunities to travel and visited a global array of locations including all seven continents. He was an active participant and board member in the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, and as photographer of group activities and valley scenes. He and Carol served as docents at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and he was a lifetime member and photographer of the Friends of the International Center at UC San Diego.

He is survived by Carol, and his children, Bryan, Andrew and Alison, and grandchildren, Stephanie, Erin, Sean, and Emma.

— Robert Knox and Karen Stocks

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