Spiess Hall of Fame


A string of 10 colorful Navy signal flags spelling “Spiess Hall” flew from the railing of the formerly named Scripps Nierenberg Hall Annex (NTV) building on Jan. 23. The whimsical hoist was set for a re-naming of the building in recognition of the exceptional life and career of late, legendary oceanographer Fred Noel Spiess of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Spiess, who died in 2006, had been affiliated with Scripps Oceanography since 1952 and was a distinguished scientist and former director of Scripps. At the time of his death, Spiess was a professor emeritus of oceanography at the Scripps Marine Physical Laboratory and had a successful scientific career that spanned more than 50 years. During this period, he had an enormous impact on ocean sciences as a sea-going researcher who led an average of two major oceanographic expeditions a year for more than 40 years. The newly named Spiess Hall building was built in 1999 and many of its occupants are members of the Marine Physical Laboratory, which Spiess helped establish.

“Having his name on this building feels as though his presence is anchored in the part of the world and with the people that he loved best” said Spiess’ daughter, Katherine Spiess-Dallaire, to a crowd of more than 100 celebrating the building’s new namesake. “We hope this building will be a place where people gather in the halls and labs, share ideas and stories, and think about our world in new ways.”

Spiess was widely known for his contributions to the development of innovative ocean technology. He was tireless in defining new ways to look at the deep ocean and seafloor. He designed and built instruments, took them to sea for deployment, and led numerous expeditions to investigate the deepest parts of the world's oceans.

“When we think of Fred, we think of him as an embodiment of the inventive, adventurous, and collaborative spirit that has driven Scripps’ excellence since its founding,” said Scripps Director Tony Haymet.

Spiess was also co-inventor of the one-of-a-kind research platform called FLIP, the Floating Instrument Platform, almost 50 years ago. FLIP, still in use today, is towed out to sea, then its ballast tanks are flooded, causing a 90-degree horizontal-to-vertical flip. This vertical orientation creates a stable platform for conducting research at sea.

This particular instrument was so much a part of Spiess’ life that Spiess-Dallaire recalls her family dubbed FLIP their “sister ship.” “Now, with this dedication,” she said, “we can also say that we have a ‘brother building.’”

--Shannon Casey

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