Walter Munk: October 19, 1917 - February 8, 2019

It is with heavy hearts that we share the loss of IGPP's founder and first director, Walter Munk, who passed away Friday, February 8th.

Born October 19, 1917, Walter was an intellectual giant, and his pioneering research into surf forecasting, swell propagation, ocean currents, tides, time series analysis, ocean acoustics, and ocean temperature, along with his abundant prizes and accolades, will be remembered by many.  However, all those of us who frequented the halls of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics La Jolla will have a special memory of him.   

Walter became an assistant professor at Scripps in 1947 immediately after receiving his PhD under Harald Sverdrup, a former Director of SIO.   He was also named a member of the University of California's Institute of Geophysics, a UC-wide entity run out of UCLA, and received one third of his salary from the Institute.  With the support of Louis Slichter, the UCLA director of the Institute, and Roger Revelle, then SIO director, Walter established the La Jolla branch of the Institute of Geophysics in 1961, and went on to raise the money to construct the first of IGPP La Jolla's redwood buildings, now known as the Munk Laboratory.  Walter's initial hires included George Backus, Freeman Gilbert, and Robert Parker, who together established our strengths in geophysical inverse theory and theoretical geophysics in general, Richard Haubrich and Hugh Bradner, who worked on seismic instrumentation, work that continues to this day, and Klaus Hasselmann and Douglas Caldwell, who represent the foundation of our strong and continuing relationship to oceanography. 

Walter remained Director of IGPP until 1976, but never lost interest, or influence, on how IGPP was run after stepping down.  By 2010, IGPP had become a multi-campus entity with branches at two national laboratories and five campuses, but as the late Freeman Gilbert once said, "when people talk about IGPP, they really mean this [Walter's] IGPP."   Walter also never lost his interest and enthusiasm for research, and published papers every year up until about 2013, many as single authorships or co-authorships with his friend and colleague Bill Farrell.  Nor did he lose his enthusiasm to socialize with his colleagues.  He enjoyed a good party, and opened up his house to students and colleagues at the slightest excuse.  He loved to tell stories about his career, and the founding and building of IGPP, and while many of us heard these stories more than once, none of us could be anything but captivated by them.  He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.