Robert D. Ballard is a professor of oceanography and director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn. Best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, and the American aircraft carrier Yorktown, sunk in World War IIs Battle of Midway.
Throughout his career, Ballard has conducted more than 100 deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned vehicles. A 1977 expedition he led in the Galapagos Rift found hydrothermal vents with exotic ecosystems in the sea floor, a major scientific discovery.
Born June 30, 1942 in Wichita, Kansas, Ballard grew up in San Diego. "I grew up wanting to be Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," he said. Ballard has a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. He went on to develop telecommunications technology to create "telepresence" for his JASON Project, which allows hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe.
Ballard has 16 honorary degrees and was awarded the 2003 National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush. He is a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He received the National Geographic Societys Hubbard Medal in 1996 for extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the worlds oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science. He has published 18 books, numerous scientific papers and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine.
Ballards most recent discoveries include the Mediterranean Sea finds of sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes (1997) and two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel (1999), the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water. In 2002 he discovered the remains of PT-109, the patrol ship piloted by John F. Kennedy and sunk by the Japanese off the Solomon Islands during World War II. He is also continuing a project in the Black Sea that seeks evidence of a great flood, linked to the Noahs Ark legend, that may have struck the region thousands of years ago.