Sylvia Alice Earle was born on August 30, 1935, Gibbstown, New Jersey, United States of America. Sylvia is an American oceanographer and explorer known for her research on marine algae and her books and documentaries designed to raise awareness of the threats that overfishing and pollution pose to the world’s oceans. A pioneer in the use of modern self-contained underwater breathing apparatus gear and the development of deep-sea submersibles. Sylvia Earle held the world record for the deepest untethered dive.
Earle was the second of three children born to Lewis Reade Earle and his wife, Alice Freas Richie. Alice spent her early life on a small farm near Camden, New Jersey, where she gained a respect and appreciation for the wonders of nature through her own explorations of nearby woods and the empathy her parents showed to living things. When Alice was 12, her family to Dunedin, Florida, where the family’s waterfront property afforded Earle the opportunity to investigate living things inhabiting nearby salt marshes and seagrass beds.
Her parents could not afford to send her to college themselves, but she was an exceptional student and won scholarships to Florida State University. Throughout her school years, she supported herself by working in college laboratories.
Here, she first learned scuba diving, determined to use this new technology to study marine life at first hand. Fascinated by all aspects of the ocean and marine life, Sylvia decided to specialize in botany. Understanding the vegetation, she believes, is the first step to understanding any ecosystem.
After earning her bachelor of science degree from Florida State University, she then earned her master’s degree at Duke University. Sylvia Earle shortly after graduating took time off to marry Graham Hawkes and start a family, but remained active in marine exploration. Her husband Graham Hawkes was an engineer and submersible designer, founded Deep Ocean Engineering to design, operate, support and consult on piloted and robotic subsea systems.In 1964, when her children were only two and four, she left home for six weeks to join a National Science Foundation expedition in the Indian Ocean.
In 1966 Sylvia Earle received her Ph.D. from Duke University. Her dissertation, “Phaeophyta of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” created a sensation in the oceanographic community. Never before had a marine scientist made such a long and detailed first-hand study of aquatic plant life. Since then she has made a lifelong project of cataloguing every species of plant that can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1996, Sylvia also published a book called Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans.
Sylvia Earle’s astonishing career took her first to Harvard, as a research fellow, then to the resident directorship of the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Florida.
Sylvia in 1968, traveled to a hundred feet below the waters of the Bahamas in the submersible Deep Diver. This was a stunning accomplishment for a woman and at this...