Hartley Hoskins

1938 ∼ 2021

Hartley Hoskins

Hartley Hoskins

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of retiree Hartley Hoskins on January 1, 2021. He was 82.  Over a career of 57 years at WHOI, Hartley displayed a disciplinary expertise, dedication and loyalty to the Institution that won the respect and affection of all who knew him.  He recognized that the conduct of ocean research often crossed traditional academic disciplinary boundaries, and that technological advancements could be crucial to progress in understanding the ocean.   While his own selected discipline was marine geology and applications of seismic profiling, he was a polymath with substantial expertise, for example, in electricity and electronics, computer and information networking, and ship operations.  In his years at WHOI Hoskins participated in 30 oceanographic cruises including one on the Institution’s first ship, the R/V ATLANTIS, a 143 ft. sailing ketch.

Hartley was born near Rochester, New York, the son of the late Doctor Merideth F. & Berenice (Pease) Hoskins.  For several years during his adolescence, Hartley’s family lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands where his father worked at a tuberculosis hospital near Christiansted, St. Croix.  Later, the family returned to Rochester where, during high school, Hartley studied piano and organ at the Eastman School of Music, learning skills he practiced for the rest of his life, including at weekly sessions at the Christian Science Church in Falmouth. 

Hoskins’ interest in oceanography was sparked by an MIT undergraduate seminar in oceanography, taught by WHOI geophysicist Bracket Hersey in spring 1958.  As a result, Hartley was recruited to spend the following summer at Woods Hole helping test new equipment for seismic profiling, involving a cruise on the R/V BEAR.  This provided the data for his MIT Senior Thesis (“Primer on seismic reflection data acquisition and analysis”) and the beginning of his lifelong primary disciplinary specialty.  He proceeded to the University of Chicago where he received Master’s (1961) and Doctoral (1965) degrees and a postdoctoral fellowship.

After the postdoctoral fellowship in Chicago he spent a summer of sonar surveying at Mediterranean archaeological sites with underwater photography pioneer Harold Edgerton of MIT.  For two years Hartley then taught undergraduate geology at the University of Ghana.

On returning to WHOI’s Geology and Geophysics Department he participated in numerous cruises of the Ocean Drilling Program.  These cruises occurred during one of the most exciting periods of ocean research, when the theory of seafloor spreading was being developed and tested.  Along the way he innovated important improvements to seismic technology including quantitative measures of sedimentary reflectivity, computerized management of results, improvements on quiet towing streamers, and one, for which he received a patent, summing returns from streamer sections to create a synthetic aperture.

During the 1970s, as the oil drilling industry moved into increasingly deep water, Hartley recognized the relevance of WHOI seismic information and technology to these companies.  In 1977 he took on management of the Ocean Industry Program (OIP), which provided archived data, technology insights, and geoscience briefings to subscribing companies.  He expressed gratitude for the assistance of Mildred Teal during those years.  The revenues thus derived provided for unencumbered support of new WHOI projects.  One of these was the Institution’s 1978 venture into word processing in which Hartley played a seminal role.  The first installation was a Wang word processor consisting of a central server with four work stations (files were stored on 9-inch floppy discs).  It grew to two servers and twenty-nine work stations.  More importantly, it gave the Institution experience that shepherded in the new era of personal desk-top computers and word processors.

His experience with OIP and elsewhere led Hartley to recognize use of patents and other intellectual property rights in capturing the value of ideas and technology innovations.  In 1984 he became secretary of the WHOI Patents and Inventions Committee.  Through independent study and a summer course at Franklin Pierce Law Center he passed the U.S Patent and Trademark Office patent bar exam in 1989 and was certified as Patent Agent #33,903.

Prior to 1983, students in the MIT/WHOI joint PhD program had to physically commute back and forth to Cambridge for classes.  Hartley conceived and designed a microwave link that carried not only the video-linked classroom but also all of WHOI’s internet traffic and provided for foreign exchange telephone service.  Afterwards, Hartley was involved in setting up (and sometimes digging trenches for) other telephone systems, network wiring, and switch upgrades. As Network Group Leader for the WHOI Computer and Information Services, he completed installation of a second fiber-optic cable linking the Quissett Campus and village properties to provide redundant, campus-wide communications.

Between 1984 and 2001, Hartley operated borehole seismic instruments on seven Ocean Drilling Program cruises led by Ralph Stephen, who credited him with success of the seismic program through his pro-active recommendations for improvements to all aspects of the operation:  scientific goals, instrumentation, engineering, and management.   Another of Hartley’s versatile WHOI adventures, of which he was proud, involved assistance with the lengthening and re-engining of the KNORR and her sister ship the MELVILLE from 1992-94, a difficult project that he characterized as “complicated and confrontational” but after which both ships performed for many years in an exemplary manner.

Over the course of nearly six decades at WHOI, Hartley was an integral part of the WHOI fabric, raising the level of endeavor and accomplishment across the entire Institution.

He retired from WHOI in 2015.

Throughout most of his years in Falmouth, Hartley resided in the area known as Sippewissett, where, in 1969, he was a founder of the Sippewissett Association.  He was President for several years during the 1990s.  In part a watchdog organization, the Association guards the residential nature of the neighborhood and deeded access to the water’s edge, repeatedly threatened over the years.  In particular the beach at Gunning Point and adjacent community lands, serving 193 lot-owners, were threatened with capture by a private interest starting in 1980.  The matter was not legally resolved until 2010, throughout which time Hartley never faltered in his commitment to safeguard the community’s interest.  In 2016 a new local access to the town woodland of over 350 acres was dedicated in his name, in gratitude for his many years of selfless community service.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Rosemary Hoskins, of Falmouth, and their son Andrew, of Spencer, New York; three grandchildren, Hannah, Noreen and Calvin Hoskins; and a younger brother, Kim Hoskins, who resides at the family homestead in Bloomfield, N.Y.  Hartley was pre-deceased by his first wife, Judith Brennan.

 A celebration of life service will be announced at a future date.

Hartley Hoskins

1938 ∼ 2021

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