My friend John Diebold passed away this week

Posted July 3rd, 2010 by dale

Like many of us John Diebold was a complicated guy. I met him in 1973 when I arrived at Lamont and he was working in Ed Schrieber's lab.

John was very proud of his Phi Beta Kappa path through the University of Colorado, but, on his professional geophysicist’s curriculum vitae attached to science proposals you won’t find his earlier, “unsuccessful”, attempt to get through Cornell during which he learned a lot about his music and film.

He was equally proud of other accomplishments that you won’t find in that CV either, including: fighting forest fires with the McCall Idaho Hot Shots and being (in Norman Maclean’s sense, a woodsman); conquering his stage fright by playing his music in public in preparation for orals and defense of his thesis; his time as a machinist and instrument maker in the Lamont (pre-Doherty) Machine Shop under Angelo Ludas’ guidance; and his two years as an air gunner on the Research Vessel Conrad. In recent decades he sailed often as Chief or Co-Chief Scientist but those represent only a fraction of his seventy (70) plus research cruises.

John is well known in the marine geophysics community for his contributions to science and to the physics and acoustics of seismic sources, but less so for his contributions to making equipment, including, but not limited to being the day-to-day force behind salvaging the Conrad’s conversion from a four-source array to a ten-source array at Keppel Shipyard in Singapore in 1986.

When John arrived in Singapore, he discovered that the structural engineering had not been done for the new airgun booms which were to be mounted on the Conrad, so he found a local naval architect and worked with the architect’s CAD system (a room full of folks on stools with drafting equipment) to produce the necessary drawings and supporting documentation necessary for approvals and for fabrication.

In his inauguration speech (January 20, 2009) Barack Obama complemented folks like John, saying “.... it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path....”.

And finally in John’s own words: “I hope tomorrow's scientists will continue to know how the equipment works, and how to make it work.”

John was a doer and a maker of things in addition to being a musician, a geophysicist, and a friend of mine.

Dale Chayes
July 2, 2010
Aboard the US Coast Guard research icebreaker Healy in the Chukchi Sea