2013 Past Lecturer
Dr. Robert Ballard
An explorer, discoverer and historian, Dr. Robert Ballard's fascinating journeys can teach us a great deal about our past and encourage others to take tremendous strides in the survey of the undiscovered mysteries of the deep sea.
Best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, Dr. Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy's boat, PT-109.
While those discoveries have captured the imagination of the public, Dr. Ballard believes his most important discoveries where of hydrothermal vents and "black smokers" in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979 along with their exotic life forms living off the energy of the Earth through a process now called chemosynthesis.
Dr. Ballard was born in Wichita and raised in California, where he grew up exploring the shore in San Diego. He earned a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop telecommunications technology for his JASON Project to allow hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe. In 2001, he returned to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island where he is presently a tenured professor of Oceanography and director of the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography.
Dr. Ballard has 21 honorary degrees and six military awards. He was also a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving in the Navy from 1967 to 1997. He received the National Geographic Society's prestigious Hubbard Medal in 1996 for "extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world's oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science."
In addition to being a National Geographic Society Explorer-In-Residence and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, Dr. Ballard is the founder and president of the Institute for Exploration (IFE).
Photos provided by Ocean Exploration Trust.