Sylvia Earle • Friday, April 16
Oceanographer, Ocean Explorer, Author, Lecturer
"Sylvia Earle is a living legend."
— Library of Congress
Sylvia Earle has been at the frontier of deep ocean exploration for more than four decades. To date, she has led more than 50 expeditions worldwide and logged more than 6,000 hours underwater, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during NASA’s Tektite Project in 1970 and setting a world-record for solo diving in 1979.
A native of Gibbstown, New Jersey, Earle grew up in Dunedin, Florida where she discovered a passion for the Gulf of Mexico and its myriad varieties of flora and fauna. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1955 from Florida State University, where she learned to scuba dive. She later earned a master’s and a doctorate in marine science from Duke University, specializing in marine botany.
Using a special dive suit, off the coast of Oahu on Sept. 19, 1979, Earle walked untethered on the sea floor at a depth lower than any other human, man or woman has before or since—an astonishing 1,250 feet deep. She later set the women’s record for a solo dive in a deep submersible (3,280 feet).
In the 1980s she started the companies Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies with engineer Graham Hawkes to design and build undersea vehicles that allow scientists to work at previously inaccessible depths. In the early 1990s, Earle served as chief scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. At present she is explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and remains active on the boards of many nonprofit organizations.
Author of many books on the ocean—perhaps most notably Sea Change: A Message Of the Oceans (1995)—Earle is a dedicated advocate for the world's oceans and the creatures that live in them. Her voice speaks with wonder and amazement at the glory of the oceans and with urgency to awaken the public from its ignorance about the role the oceans plays in all of our lives and the importance of maintaining their health.
Last fall, National Geographic Books published Earle's newest book,
The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One.
Learn more: see Sylvia Earle's TED Prize wish to protect our oceans at TED.com.