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Robert L. Edwards

Robert L. Edwards Obituary by his son, Eric Edwards

Robert Lomas Edwards died quietly Tuesday evening, October 27, in Falmouth(MA) at the Royal Nursing Center. He was 89. Born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on August 24, 1920, he grew up in Hamilton New York. There he roamed the countryside and fell in love with the natural world.

After graduating from Hamilton High School he enrolled at Cornell, only to leave to become a Navigator/Bombardier in the Second World War. He survived the low level raid on the Ploesti oil fields on August 1, 1943, earning the first of two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He was also  awarded four Air Medals(among other honors) during his service in Europe. Upon return he finished his Bachelor's degree at Colgate University. At Harvard he received an MA, then his Phd in Biology in 1947.

He taught Ecology at Tufts and Brandeis before being hired in 1954 at the then Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Laboratory in Woods Hole as Program Chief. There he embarked on a career that would bring Ecosystem science to the forefront of the study of the biology of the oceans, in particular the Northwest Atlantic region. In 1964 Dr. Edwards became Assistant Director at the Woods Hole Laboratory and in 1965 he was assigned Scientific advisor to the State Department for fishery and ocean research programs. Beginning in 1967 he coordinated unprecedented research cruises between the U.S. And the then Soviet Union and other bloc countries as well as Western European fishery interests, leading to international programs still ongoing and effective today. He was an early advocate of computers and  satellites, and even fiercer advocate of the necessity of mathematics and statistics in the study of ecological systems, as well as long term data bases and persistent sampling programs, in order to understand properly the oceans and our prudent use of them.

 From 1970 through 1971, Dr Edwards held the position of Associate Director for Resource Research in  Washington D.C., as the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries became the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the reorganized National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. He returned to Woods Hole as the Director of the Northeast Fisheries Center. From 1972 until his retirement from Federal service he was first a U.S. delegate to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and then its Chief of Delegation(1978-1985). In 1977 he was awarded a Gold Medal for Scientific Achievement from the Commerce Department, along with his colleague Richard C. Hennemuth. Following Dr. Edwards' three years of work at the World Court as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Gulf of Maine Adjudication Team, he was given a Superior Honor Award by the Department of State(1984).

Dr Edwards wrote or co-authored more than one hundred papers in many fields including Astronomy, Archeology, Mammalogy, Ichthyology and Fisheries in general, Mathematics, Ornithology, Ecology, Entomology, and towards the end of his life his late love, Arachnology.  He was an excellent artist in several media, a fan of printmaking, a trustee and perennial supporter of the Boston Ballet from its infancy, as well as a teacher and guest lecturer all his life at various universities.

He is predeceased by his wife Sylvia Bitler (Pierce) Edwards and his youngest daughter Annabel Davis Edwards, and survived by three children and four grandchildren: daughter Carol Warren (Edwards) Senske of Green Lane PA, and her son Andrew Senske;daughter Susan Pierce (Edwards) Frank of Philadelphia PA; son Eric Hill Edwards of Falmouth, MA, his sons Wendell Davis Edwards and James Howe Edwards, and a daughter Emily Pierce Edwards.  A memorial meeting will be held at the Quaker meetinghouse in West Falmouth early next year.