Milestones

By A&S Magazine

Owen Martin Phillips

Owen Martin Phillips, a Johns Hopkins University faculty member emeritus and world-renowned oceanographer, died on Oct. 13 at his Chestertown, Md., home. He was 79.

Phillips was world famous for devising a methodology for predicting and describing the shape of ocean waves, including giant waves–10-story upheavals of the sea surface–the knowledge of which is essential for designing ships and drilling platforms capable of withstanding these destructive swells of water.

An engineer and scientist who probed the complex physics of fluids in motion, Phillips spent half a century at Johns Hopkins and was the chief architect of the school’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, formed in 1967. His work in fluid mechanics is widely recognized as having had a profound impact on the field, cutting across traditional disciplines and encompassing practical applications as disparate as the Earth’s crust, its atmosphere, and oceans.

"Owen was a true giant in the field of fluid mechanics for his contributions to oceanography and other geophysical flows, and he had a huge impact on Johns Hopkins University," says Darryn Waugh, chair of Earth and planetary sciences. "Not only did he play a major role in the formation of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and twice serve as chair, but he also was its first and longest-serving chair, during which time he guided its growth and development into an internationally recognized, interdisciplinary center for research and teaching."

John P. Doering, a longtime faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, died at home in Baltimore County on Dec. 13 from cardiac arrest. He was 73.

Doering graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins in 1958 and joined the faculty in 1964 after earning his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley in 1961 and working for three years at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now Los Alamos National Laboratory). He became a full professor in 1970. Four decades of Johns Hopkins freshmen studied in chemistry laboratories under his supervision. He also had undergraduate assistants in his labs and classes, was the thesis adviser of at least 11 doctoral students, and worked with numerous postdoctoral fellows.

Doering was a pioneer in the use of rockets and satellites for measurements of electrons in the Earth’s atmosphere, and his laboratory provided electron spectrometers for three Atmosphere Explorer satellite missions between 1970 and 1983 and measured the photoelectron spectrum of the Earth’s atmosphere to a degree of detail that remains unequaled. In laboratory experiments, he studied the excitation and ionization of atoms and molecules by electron impact, and their subsequent energy loss. His determination of the rates of excitation of atomic oxygen turned out to be particularly important in atmospheric chemistry modeling.