Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Rakestraw, Norris W.

Norris Watson Rakestraw (1895-1982), professor of chemistry, was born in Toledo, Ohio, on January 16, 1895. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1916, a master of arts in 1917, and a Ph.D. in 1921, all from Stanford University. During World War I he served in the Chemical Warfare Service. The subject of his Ph.D. dissertation was “Chemical Factors of Fatigue.” For two years he taught at Stanford and the California State Teachers College at San Jose. After study at Yale, Cambridge University, and the University of Copenhagen, he was assistant professor at Oberlin College for a year before coming to Brown in 1926 as assistant professor in charge of beginning work in chemistry. In 1931 he was appointed research associate at the newly established Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. On leave during the 1933-34 academic year he visited most of the oceanographic stations of the world, facilitating his travel by learning to fly an airplane. During the second World War he was wing commander of the Rhode Island Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. He was editor of the Journal of Chemical Education from 1940 to 1955, during which time the circulation of the journal doubled. A pioneer in marine chemistry, he became professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1946. He received the James Flack Norris Award of the American Chemical Society in 1956. He also was the first recipient in 1964 of Skin Diver Magazine’s Annual Award for Outstanding Service to Youth in the Field of Oceanography. After retiring from Scripps in 1965, he was a foreign liaison officer and scientific adviser with the federal Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Laboratory. He died on December 3, 1982 in Morongo Valley, California. Professor Roger Revelle of Scripps said of him, “Norris Rakestraw was truly one of the great pioneers in studying the chemistry of the oceans. A born teacher, he shepherded many young people from around the world through the intricacies of becoming a graduate student.”