This Day In History: 1905-07-18


Mary Sears (1905 – 1997) was born on this day.
She was a US oceanographer and a Commander in the US Naval Reserve, associated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution throughout her career. Sears worked at Harvard University with Henry Bigelow, the founder and first director of Woods Hole and began working as a planktonologist at Woods Hole (1932), and as one of the first staff research assistants. Research assistant at Harvard (1933 – 1949), staff planktonologist at Woods Hole (1940 – 1963). During World War II she joined the Navy as a WAVE working in the Hydrographic Office aiding the Navy in strategic manoeuvres through providing analysis of tides, surf heights, and other oceanic metrics. She established a small oceanographic unit in the Navy’s Hydrographic Office, helping to expand the role of applied oceanography within the Navy, ultimately managing over 400 personnel, and has been described as the “first Oceanographer of the Navy in modern times.” The US Navy named a new naval research vessel, the USNS Mary Sears (2000), the first time in it’s history that the Navy named a research vessel for a woman.

Sears described a number of new species (although none remain valid) and is honoured in the name of a genus, Maresearsia, and in the name of a species under searsae (no longer valid).