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Henry William Menard (December 10, 1920 – February 9, 1986) was an American geologist.

H. William Menard
Henry William Menard.jpg
Menard as Director of USGS, 1978-1981
10th Director of the United States Geological Survey
In office
1978 (1978) – 1981 (1981)
Preceded byVincent Ellis McKelvey
Succeeded byDallas Lynn Peck
Personal details
Born(1920-12-10)December 10, 1920
Fresno, California, USA
DiedFebruary 9, 1986(1986-02-09) (aged 65)
La Jolla, California, USA
NationalityUnited States
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology and Harvard University
AwardsWilliam Bowie Medal
Scientific career
FieldsMarine Geology
ThesisTransportation of bed-load by running water (1949)
Doctoral advisorHenry Stetson
Doctoral studentsMarcia McNutt


Life and careerEdit

He earned a B.S. and M.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1942 and 1947, having served in the South Pacific during World War II as a photo interpreter. In 1949, he completed a Ph.D. in marine geology at Harvard University.[1] Menard is perhaps best known for his promotion of the theory of plate tectonics before it was widely accepted in the scientific community. Menard served many roles during his career as a marine geologist. Field worker, theorist, educator, popularizer, entrepreneur and statesman.

Menard's historical and sociological writings are respected by historians of science. Menard began his professional career in 1949, in the Sea Floor Studies Section of San Diego's Navy Electronics Laboratory. He joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in 1955 as associate professor of geology. Menard's field work was extensive, involving 1,000 aqua-lung dives and 20 oceanographic expeditions from 1949 until 1978 when he became Director of the U.S.G.S. His research focused on the morphology of the ocean floor. During the 1950s, Menard also started a scuba-diving business with a few colleagues that included consulting for AT&T on the laying of cable.

He became a full professor of the University of California, San Diego in 1961. Two years were spent at Churchill College (1962 and 1970-71). Following a year in Washington, D.C. as technical advisor in the Office of Science and Technology (1965-66), Menard served as Director of the University of California's Institute of Marine Resources.[2]

USGS careerEdit

In April 1978, H. William Menard became the United States Geological Survey's tenth Director but remained only through the balance of the Carter administration. Menard had been a marine geologist with the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego for several years and then had become a member of the faculty of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1965-66, he was associated with the Office of Science and Technology in the White House. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Menard was a recognized worldwide authority in marine geology and oceanography and had discovered notable topographic and structural features of the sea floor that laid much of the foundation of the plate-tectonics revolution in geology.[3]

After his return to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1981, Menard continued to teach, write, and do research. Menard died from cancer on February 9, 1986.[4] A biographical memoir was published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1994.[5]

Awards and honorsEdit


  • "Marine Geology of the Pacific", 1964
  • "Anatomy of an Expedition", 1969
  • "Science: Growth and Change", 1971 ISBN 0-674-79280-7
  • "Geology, Resources, and Society", 1974 ISBN 0-7167-0260-6
  • "Ocean Science", 1978 ISBN 0-7167-0013-1
  • "Islands", 1986 ISBN 0-7167-5017-1
  • "The Ocean of Truth: A Personal History of Global Tectonics", 1986 ISBN 0-691-08414-9

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Preceded by
Vincent Ellis McKelvey
Director of the United States Geological Survey
Succeeded by
Dallas Lynn Peck