Minnesota Sea Grant celebrates 50th year of water research

Published 10:08 am Monday, October 24, 2016

ST. PAUL  — What do an experimental domed city in Aitkin County, the Minneapolis skyway system, a device that helped locate enemy subs in World War II, and the National Sea Grant Program have in common?

They were all the brainchild of a far-sighted futurist and former University of Minnesota Dean named Athelstan Spilhaus, MPR News reported.

But that’s not all he’s done.

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“He was part of the atomic bomb testing, he designed the Seattle World’s Fair science expo, and he wrote a syndicated comic strip for fun, as a hobby, for 15 years,” said Sharon Moen, communications coordinator for Minnesota Sea Grant and the author of a biography of Spilhaus called With Tomorrow in Mind: How Athelstan Spilhaus Turned America to the Future.

But, as it turns out, one of his less provocative ideas — the Sea Grant Program — may be his most enduring legacy. The program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month.

Spilhaus conceived of it as a parallel to the land grant university system. He envisioned a future where we desalinated sea water for drinking, hybridized sea plants to produce sea fruits and vegetables, and farmed fish and even whales.