Papers of Nicholas P. Fofonoff


Manuscript Collection 38

(9.25 linear feet)

Processed by

Lisa M. Raymond

Processing of the collection was partly supported by a grant from the
Friends of the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics


Copyright: Permission to publish material from the collection must be
authorized by the Institution Archivist.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Data Library and Archives
Woods Hole, MA 02543

March 2001
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Table of Contents

Biographical Note


Scope and Content Note

Series Description

Related Material

Processing Note

Container List

Biographical Note

Dr. Nicholas Fofonoff was born August 18, 1929 in Queenstown, Canada. He completed his B.A. and M.A. at the University of British Columbia. He first came to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) as a summer fellow in 1952 and again in 1953 when he was a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University. He received his Ph.D. in 1955. Following a postdoctoral year at the National Institute of Oceanography in England and six years on the staff of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Fofonoff came to the Institution in 1961 to participate in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics program. In 1962 he was appointed to the scientific staff. The following year he was appointed Senior Scientist. From 1968-1986 he was a Professor of the Practice of Physical Oceanography at Harvard University and Associate of the Center for Earth and Planetary Physics from 1971-1986.

Nick Fofonoff served as the Department Chairman for the Physical Oceanography Department at WHOI from 1967-1971 and from 1981-1985. He was active in the management of the Buoy Group at WHOI for many years. He received the Henry Stommel Research Award from the American Meteorological Society in 1988. Fofonoff served on various scientific committees and was involved in several international projects including MODE (Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment); POLYMODE (Joint US-USSR Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment); WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment); and IWEX (International Wave Experiment).

His research interests include the dynamics of ocean circulation, physical properties and thermodynamics of seawater, and the development of mooring technology and reliable current measurement. These were all major areas of inquiry for the Russian/American POLYMODE project, which took place from 1975 to 1981 and for which Fofonoff served on the organizing committee. His knowledge of the Russian language aided in the success of the partnership.

Fofonoff was a leader in the development and introduction of the now standard Practical Salinity Scale. His later research focused on the Gulf Stream. Dr. Fofonoff retired from the Institution in December of 1991. He is currently a Scientist Emeritus.


Nicholas P. Fofonoff donated his papers to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Data Library and Archives (DLA) in 1999.

Scope and Content Note

The Nicholas P. Fofonoff papers consist of seven boxes (9.25 linear feet) that span the years 1961-1994. The material covers his years at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, including memos and correspondence created during his tenure as Physical Oceanography Department Chairman and Buoy Group manager. Also included are presentations and lectures from classes he taught at Harvard and WHOI, as well as considerable correspondence between Fofonoff and colleague, Ferris Webster. There are five series: Chronological Files, Correspondence Files, Telemail Files, Buoy Group Management Files, and Subject Files.

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Series Descriptions

Chronological Files

Consists mostly of reviews of journal articles and correspondence.

Correspondence Files

Includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence on various subjects.


Photocopies of Fofonoff’s electronic mail from 1980-1981.

Buoy Group Management

Includes proposals, memos and meeting minutes, as well as, blue prints of buoys.

Subject Files

These files are arranged chronologically to maintain the original order of the collection. Subjects range from meetings and projects to classes he taught and equations he wrote.

Related Material

Dr. Fofonoff was interviewed as part of the Office of Naval Research project, Oceanography: The making of science. This oral history is available in the DLA.

Processing Note

The papers were put in acid free folders. Paper clips and staples were removed. Newspaper clippings, overhead transparencies and acidic items were photocopied. Photographs were put in archival sleeves and added to scientific photograph collection. Notebooks were cut and the contents put in folders and labeled. The files were consolidated and put into acid free cartons.

Processing of the collection was partly supported by a gfrom the Friends of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics.

Container List

Box Folder Title

Chronological Files
1 1971-1972
1974 (2 folders)
1975 (2 folders)
1976 (2 folders)
1977 (2 folders)

2 1978
1981 (2 folders)
3 1982
Correspondence Files
1966, 1967
4 1971
1972, 1973
1976, 1977
1978, 1979
ATS-3” 18 Nov – 29 Nov 1980
Oct – Dec 1980
30 Nov – 6 Dec 1980
Jan 1981
Feb – Mar 1981
April – May 1981
July – Sept 1981
Buoy Group Management
5 Buoy Group, 1968-1970
Buoy Project, 1969-1973
Buoy Group & MODE proposals, memos, etc., 1971(2 folders)
Buoy Group projects, schedules, proposals, 1975-1976
Buoy Group Memos, 1976
Buoy Lab Memos, 1977 (3 folders)
6 Buoy Group Meeting, 1972-1982
Buoy Group Memos, 1978
Buoy Group Memos, 1978, 1980, 1981
Buoy Group Management, 1978-1982 (2 folders)
Buoy Group Memos, 1979-1981
Buoy Group Management, 1979
7 Buoy Group Memos/Correspondence, 1980 (4 folders)
Buoy Group Management, 1981 (2 folders)
Buoy Group Management Memos, 1981-1982
Buoy Group Management, 1982
Subject Files
Papers by Fofonoff and others, n.d.
Spectral analysis … paper by Fofonoff, n.d.
Spectral characteristics of single Ekman wind drift model, n.d.
Paper – A simple model for mooring… by Fofonoff, n.d.
Machine computation mass transport ocean, n.d.
8 Oscillation modes of a deep-sea … by Fofonoff, n.d.
Nonlinear model of decaying Rossby waves, by Fofonoff, n.d.
Geostrophic velocity along potential density surfaces, n.d.
Welander Lectures, n.d
Buoy photos, n.d.
Presentation “Wed. morning Kort,” introduction, n.d.
Rossby waves, n.d.
Mooring kit, n.d.
Beardsley & Gargett paper (Taylor-Proudman columns), n.d.
NAVOCEANO (Naval Oceanographic Office), n.d.
Visit from House Comm. on Oceanography, n.d.
Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research (SCOR) Working Group 21,  n.d.
Computer printouts-originally in folder labeled “Monster Buoy,” n.d.
Woods Hole Curriculum, Things to do, Equations, n.d.
Long range plans, including one by Stommel, 1960’s
Joint panel on the equation of state of seawater, 1961-1964
Equations – correspondence about, 1963/1968
Invited paper for Royal Meteorological Society of Canada, Quebec City, Jan. 5, 1963
Photos Rossby waves in Fullers tank, 1963
Advanced sea-based deterrent… and current measurements from moored buoys, 1963
Format for current meters, 1963
General Scientific Framework Symposium Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research (SCOR), 1963
9 Misc. Navy and Clearance, 1963-1969
Buoy Projects, 1963-1964
North Pacific Trade Wind Zone Investigation, 1963
Buoy cruises, 1963-1966
Convair Buoy, 1963
Wednesday Seminar, 1964
Notes on current meters, 1964
Translation of Russian journal articles, 1964-1965
Problem of measuring currents in ocean, c. 1964
Operations” Moorings Bermuda Biol. Station, 1964-1968
Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards, 1964-1968
Buoy Project proposal, 1964
10 Advanced sea-based deterrent, 1964 / Proposed scientific experiments, 1968
Kuroshio Treatise, 1964-1966
Synoptic Oceanography – Buoy Project Proposal, 1964
Lectures, plus papers by other people, 1965-966
National Science Foundation (NSF), Worthington proposal, 1965-1966
NSF, Hersey proposal, 1965-1967
National Academy of Engineering (NAE) proposal, 1965-1966
Buoy array drafts- Webster/MIT/Geodyne, 1965-1966
National Academy of Sciences, Comm. on Oceanography (NASCO) report, 1965
Indian Ocean Committee, 1965
American Geophysical Union (AGU) Russian Translation Comm., 1965- 1966
Indian Ocean Expedition, 1965
Atlantic Oceanography Proposal, 1965
Internal waves of tidal period, 1966
Spectral characteristics of internal waves, 1966
Mooring motion, D.A. Foster, Sept. 14, 1966
United States Geological Survey (USGS) Buoy Study proposal, 1966
Lecture- Sanders Assoc. buoy measurements, 1966
Buoy array proposal Office of Naval Res. (ONR) Letter of intent, etc., 1966
11 Comm. Eulerian measurement, Pritchard report, 1966
National Telemetering Conference, 1966
Proposals, c.1966
Second International Oceanographic Congress, 1966
Moored Ocean Array Experiment, budget and proposal, 1967 SCOR Working Group 21 on continuous velocity measurements, 1966-1967 (2 folders)
International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics/ Symposium, 1966
National Academy of Science –National Research Council (NAS-NRC)
Air-sea interaction panel, notes, Dec. 19, 1966
Interagency Comm. on Oceanography-ICO, 1966
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dec. 1967
Proposals, 1967-1970
Moored Ocean Array Experiment, 1967-1968
Geo-marine technology, Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), 1967-1968
Chain cruise 76, 1968
Station “P” mooring, 1968
12 SCOR and IUGG (International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics) correspondence, 1968-1969 
Engineering – Berteaux, 1968-1969
Operations, memos, Heinmiller, etc., 1968-1969
Stewart Turner correspondence, 1968-1970
Engineering – Walden, Stimson, etc., 1968-1970
Moored array material and other proposals, c. 968-1970
Drafts of a paper - Mass transport, 1969
“Operations” moorings, 1969
SCOR 21, 1969-1971
13 Fofonoff-Webster memos, c.1969-1972 (2 folders)
Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) University of Washington proposal, Columbia River Project, 1969-1970
Schmitz Buoy Program proposal, 1967
Statement by Richard Nixon, 1969
Comments on a Fofonoff paper, Conversion of conductivity to salinity, 1969
Proposal correspondence, etc., 1969-1971
First United States Coast Guard National Data Buoy Systems Scientific Advisory Meeting, 1969
Calculations and Russian Announcement, c. 1969
University of Chicago papers, n.d.
Wave equations / Ocean array research, n.d.
Talk at Rockefeller University – Measurement of ocean currents, n.d.
Misc., 1970’s
Physical oceanographer, presentations, 1970
14 Specific volume formula and other equations, 1970-
Air-sea interaction papers, n.d. (4 folders)
International Wave Experiment (IWEX), n.d.
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) Journal, 1970
“Operations” moorings, 1970
Engineering – Berteaux, 1970-1971
Brunt – Vaisala frequencies, 1971
Reviews, comments on papers, 1971
Buoy engineering, 1971-
Ertel potential vorticity, misc. charts and figures, and Journal Club talk on Ocean currents, 1972
15 IWEX, 1972
Research proposals, includes IWEX, 1972-1974 (3 folders)
IWEX proposals and status reports, 1973
IWEX, 1973
IWEX budget and figures, 1973
Joint Panel for Oceanographic Tables and Standards, correspondence and papers, 1973
MODE correspondence, 1973
Equation of state of seawater, discussion, 1973
SCOR reports, 1973
16 Temperature lag correction, 1973
GRENOBLE (orig. title on folder), MODE and POLYMODE material, 1973, 1975
National Academy of Science workshop, 1973
Joint Panel – Density of seawater, 1973
MODE-I, The program and the plan, 1973
Conversation with N. Fofonoff about large scale in geophysical fluid dynamics and paper by Fofonoff, Surface vs. subsurface moorings, 1973
Student – Harry Bryden, 1973-1977
University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Advisory Council … at Harvard, 1974-1975
Proposal - National Science Foundation (NSF) / International Decade of Ocean Exploration (IDOE), 1974
Search Committee, Harvard, 1974-1975
Geodetic leveling, positions on, 1974
Projects, meetings, etc., 1974
Princeton Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) Graduate Program, 1975
University of Miami visit, 1975
Enthalphy and specific heat, 1975
Geodetic leveling, position on, 1975
Proposals / Grants, 1975, 1978
GFD, 1975
Russian material, including cruise report, R/V Akademik Vernadsky, 1976
Research proposals – Fofonoff, 1976
17 POLYMODE correspondence, meeting minutes, 1976
POLYMODE correspondence, meeting minutes, 1976-1977
Joint Panel of Experts on Oceanographic Tables and Standards, 1977
Salinity, c. 1976
Presentation Annual Meeting Canadian Meteorological Society, 1977
Calculations, 1977
Telegrams, Russian, 1977
Harvard / WHOI interactions, 1977
National Science Foundation grants, 1977-1980 
Salinity scale-Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards (JPOTS) and Notice to oceanographers, 1978
Salinity, working groups – Correspondence and documents, 1978
Staff Committee, 1978
WHOI Staff Committee, Annual Report by Fofonoff, 1978
“Conductivity results of atmospheric pressure,” c.1978
18 Comments on Millero, et al. – Equation of state of seawater, 1978
Equation of state of seawater, 1978
SCOR working group, use of SI units, 1978
UNESCO tables and standards, 1978
Compressibility results from Al Bradshaw, n.d.
Standards, including Joint Panel on Oceanographic Tables and Standards – correspondence
MODE – proposals and correspondence, 1978
Student papers, Fofonoff interaction with students, etc., c.1978-1980
Student, Nan Bray, 1978-1980
Gulf Stream Extension (GSE), 1979
Joint Panel Oceanographic Tables and Standards, 1979
19 Original folder labeled “Gosnold 174 work 1973” various correspondence on conductivity and salinity, 1979 (2 folders)
Grand Banks Experiment, Paul LaViolette, reports and plans, 1979
Translation of Doklady Akad. Nauk 1975, 22(3) p. 597-600, 1979
Conductivity, Temperature, Depth (CTD) memos, 1979
Gulf Stream Extension Experiment, 1979
Conductivity –salinity algorithm, 1979
Gulf Stream and North Pacific current, photocopies of charts, n.d.
Wind, photocopies of charts, n.d.
Equations, n.d.
Deep Ocean Time Series Program, n.d.
Navy, long range plans, n.d.
Topics in physical oceanography, lectures, various years, 1980’s
Course – EPP 216 …Group velocity … Barotrophic waves.Air-seainteraction references and references on thermoclines, 1980
Gulf Stream notes, 1980
ONR (Office of Naval Research) site review, Fofonoff introduction, 1980
Moorings site “L,” 1980
20 POLYMODE, 1980-1981
Moored Array Experiments, 1980-1981
Harvard correspondence, 1980-1981
Expendable bathythermograph (XBT) data, 1980-1981
Equatorial Pacific Ocean Climate Study (EPOCS), 1981
Proposal, satellite communication for oceanographic research, 1981
Proposal, use of Pandora II / Pisces IV, 1981
SCOR, trip report – Germany, 1981
Gulf Stream paper by Armi, Fofonoff, et al., c.1981
Department Chairman, 1981-1985 (2 folders)
Gulf Stream, including University of North Carolina talk, 1982
Rob Reid Symposium and paper, 1982
Manuscript reviews, 1982-1985 (2 folders)
Comments on paper by M.C. Gregg, 1983
Courses he taught at Harvard, 1983-1987
Problem sets, 1983-1987
References, 1983-1987
21 Article reviews, including Fofonoff and Hendry, J. Phys. Oceanogr. v.15, Physical Oceanography Department and Buoy Group memos, 1983 no.7 (1985), 1983-1985
Work schedules and noteworthy happenings, 1984-1987
Manuscripts, other authors, 1984, 1989
Polar oceanography notes, 1984
Earth and Planetary Physics (EPP) course 210, 1984
Physical Oceanography Department and Buoy Group memos, 1984
Presentation (originally on transparencies), 1985
American Geophysical Union, Fofonoff elected member, 1985
Notes, neutral surfaces and internal waves, 1986
College of Marine Studies – CMS 810 lectures and references, includes Stommel’s wind driven , 1986
22 Remote sensing course, notes and lectures, 1986 (2 folders)
Earth and Planetary Physics (EPP) 222, 1986
EPP 200c, 1984 (2 folders)
History of WHOI, by undergraduate student, E.R. Micheli, 1987
12.758 Topics in Physical Oceanography, 1988
EPP 226, Physical Oceanography, Prof. Fofonoff and Robinson, 1988 (2 folders)
23 Papers reviewed by Fofonoff, 1989-1991
Problem sets, courses (EPP 216, 226, etc.), 1991
Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS) England, email correspondence with B. Gaffron, 1991-1993
XBT, hydro format stuff (title of original folder), 1991
Reviews and recommendation, 1994

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