URI Friends of Oceanography Free Public Lecture Looks to Oceanography’s Beginnings

Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642 lcugini@gso.uri.edu

Narragansett, RI — November 12, 2003 –The first laboratory-scale oceanographic experiment was carried out in 1680 to make sense of the unusual currents in the Bosphorus Strait, the narrow channel that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

The experiment that got the oceanographic ball rolling is the subject of a Friends of Oceanography Science Lecture. “Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli and the First Laboratory-Scale Model of the Sea” will take place on Tuesday, November 25, at noon in the Coastal Institute Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett. The speaker will be Dr. Bruno Soffientino, a post-doctoral fellow at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

Laboratory-scale models of the sea are very useful to oceanographers for understanding the causes and effects of natural phenomena. At the Bay Campus, for example, physical oceanographers use a wave-tank to study the mechanics of wave motion, and a rotating table to study how ocean currents behave on the rotating Earth; geophysicists use various rollers and belts submerged in a tank of corn syrup to model the circulation of the very viscous mantle deep in the Earth.

Soffientino’s lecture will describe the 1680 experiment and tell the story of the very peculiar man who carried it out: Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli. Oddly enough, this ebullient and energetic Italian was not a scientist at the time and never officially became one, having chosen a life-long career in the military. Later in life, however, he was made a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of London. How could this man of war have contributed so much to science?

A native of Italy, Soffientino lives in Kingston and received his B.S. in zoology from URI. After working as a laboratory technician at GSO, he entered the Ph.D. program in 1997 and graduated in August 2003. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow with the NASA Astrobiology program, working on bacteria in deep sea sediments at GSO with Drs. David Smith, Steve dHondt, and Art Spivack.

Established in 1985 to support and promote the activities of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Friends of Oceanography informs and educates the membership and the general public about the scientific, technological, and environmental research that takes place at GSO. The organization sponsors public lectures, open houses, marine-related mini-courses, science cruises on Narragansett Bay, and an annual auction. For information about Friends of Oceanography, call 874-6602.