George F. Bass
National Medal of Science
For pioneering ocean technology and creating a new branch of scholarship, nautical archaeology, thereby providing new knowledge of the histories of economics, technology, and literacy.
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BirthDecember 9, 1932
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsCreated Methods For Underwater Archaeology
Awarded byGeorge W. Bush
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania
Areas of ImpactTheory & Foundations
AffiliationsTexas A&M University
As a student at Johns Hopkins University in the mid-20th century, George F. Bass intended to study English for his undergraduate degree. Things changed quickly however, after Bass spent his sophomore year of college abroad in England. Rather than blossom academically, however, Bass and 40 friends were suspended from the University of Exeter for raiding a local agricultural college — and it was then that Bass found his calling. With nowhere to go, Bass headed to Taormina, Sicily with his brother and some friends for spring break. “So here I was in Taormina, sitting out there in the evening and looking at a Roman theater with Mount Etna in the background,” Bass recalled in an interview. “And I thought, you can make a living studying this stuff.”
Bass went on to become a renowned classical archeologist, well-known as one of the first scientists to practice underwater archeology. Bass directed the first archaeological expedition to excavate an ancient shipwreck in its entirety and later excavated shipwrecks from the Bronze Age, Classical Age, and the Byzantine era. Today, Bass is a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, where he founded the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, which has overseen some of the most notable excavations of the past century.
By Sara Grossman