A titan of a scientist.
Walter Munk, who gave the Allies a strategic edge in World War II, helped nurture a university into existence, and became a living synonym for oceanography, died February 8 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 101.
As a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, Munk made groundbreaking observations of waves, ocean temperature, tidal energy in the deep ocean, ocean acoustics and the rotation of the earth. As an advocate of science and broader scholarship, Munk served as an advisor to presidents and the Pentagon and conferred with public figures including the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. His convictions led him to refuse to sign a loyalty oath required by the University of California during the peak of anti-communist fervor in the early 1950s and his passion helped create the architecture that would become the defining style of the Scripps Oceanography campus.
Munk’s contributions to science throughout the latter half of the 20th Century and into the present century were measured not only in terms of the new knowledge his research yielded, but in the quality and diversity of the questions he considered. An ethos he expressed throughout his career was for scientists to take risks, pursue new directions, and embrace the educational value of failure.