Walterpalooza: Munk remembered at Scripps symposium

Walter Munk (1917-2019) was a rock star of oceanography.

The Walter Munk Legacy Celebration — a daylong symposium at the Scripps Forum, capped by a cocktail party at Birch Aquarium — celebrated the life and work of Scripps Institution of Oceanography legend Walter Munk on what would have been the oceanographer’s 102 birthday on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Friends, family members, colleagues and fans showed up to express their appreciation for a man who was as kind as he was brilliant. Munk died Feb. 8 at his home in La Jolla at the age of 101.

Gerald Burkett, Kevin Heaney, Chris Verlinden, Sean Newsome, Mary Coakley Munk, Terry Kraszewski and Camille Pagniello
Munk’s daughter, Edie, enjoys the party with her sister, Kendall. ‘Today was just so full of joy, so inspiring,’ Edie said.
Without Walter Munk, retired Navy admiral John Richardson stated during the symposium, World War II might have gone a different way entirely. Munk advised General Eisenhower to delay the invasion of Normandy by one day due to his ocean wave calculations. ‘The operation might have failed altogether,’ Richardson said. ‘I’m not sure we would have liberated Europe.’

According to Scripps officials: “As a geophysicist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Munk made groundbreaking observations of waves, ocean temperature, tidal energy in the deep ocean, ocean acoustics, and the rotation of the earth. As an advocate of science and broader scholarship, Munk served as an advisor to presidents and the Pentagon and conferred with public figures, including the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. His convictions led him to refuse to sign a loyalty oath required by the University of California during the peak of anti-communist fervor in the early 1950s and his passion helped create the architecture that would become the defining style of the Scripps Oceanography campus.”

Learn more about the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans at