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Edith Widder

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Edith Widder
Widder in the Johnson Sea Link submersible, July 2009
Born1951 (age 72–73)
EducationTufts University (B.S. 1973)
University of California, Santa Barbara (M.S. 1977, Ph.D. 1982)
Known forBioluminescence research
SpouseDavid Smith
AwardsMacArthur Fellow (2006)
Scientific career
FieldsOceanography and marine biology

Edith Anne "Edie" Widder Smith (born 1951) is an American oceanographer, marine biologist, author and the Co-founder, CEO and Senior Scientist at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association.[1][2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Widder was born in Arlington, Massachusetts[4] to Dr. David Widder, a Harvard University mathematics professor, and Dr. Vera Widder, a mathematician turned stay at home mother.[5] She also had an older brother, David Charles Widder.[6]

She graduated from Tufts University magna cum laude with a B.S. in Biology, from University of California, Santa Barbara with an M.S. in Biochemistry, and from University of California, Santa Barbara with a PhD in Neurobiology, in 1982.[7]


Widder was a senior scientist and director of the Bioluminescence Department at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution from 1989 to 2005.[8] Certified as a Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems in 1984, she holds certifications that qualify her to dive the deep diving suit WASP[2] as well as the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEEP WORKER[9] and she has made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON SEA LINK submersibles.[10] Her research involving submersibles has been featured in BBC, PBS, Discovery Channel and National Geographic television productions.[11][12][13]

A specialist in bioluminescence, she has been a leader in helping to design and invent new instrumentation and techniques that enable scientists to see the ocean in new ways. These include HIDEX, a bathyphotometer, which is the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence in the ocean,[14] and a remotely operated camera system, known as Eye in the Sea (EITS), an unobtrusive deep-sea observatory.[15][16][17]

In 2005, Widder co- founded the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of aquatic ecosystems and the species they sustain through development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action. While translating complex scientific issues into engineerable solutions, Widder is fostering greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better, more informed ocean stewardship. In September 2006 she was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation[18] and in 2010 she participated in the TED Mission Blue Voyage in the Galapagos.[19]

In 2012, a team of scientists comprising Edith Widder, zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera and marine biologist Steve O'Shea successfully filmed a live giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in its natural habitat[20] aboard Oceanx's MV Alucia.[21]

In 2019, Edith Widder and Nathan J. Robinson filmed the first-ever footage of a live giant squid recorded in US waters.[22] This expedition was aboard the R/V Point Sur of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Personal life[edit]

Widder is married to David Smith, a computer engineer.[23]


  • 2006 MacArthur Fellows Program
  • 2015 Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award[24]
  • 2018 Explorers Club Citation of Merit
  • 2019 Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award[25]
  • 2020 Captain Don Walsh Award for Ocean Exploration established by the Marine Technology Society and the Society of Underwater Technology


Selected publications include:

  • Widder, Edith A.; Latz, Michael I.; Case, James F. (1983). "Marine bioluminescence spectra measured with an optical multichannel detection system". The Biological Bulletin. 165 (3): 791–810. doi:10.2307/1541479. ISSN 0006-3185. JSTOR 1541479. PMID 29324013.
  • Widder, E. A.; Latz, M. I.; Herring, P. J.; Case, J. F. (1984). "Far Red Bioluminescence from Two Deep-Sea Fishes". Science. 225 (4661): 512–514. Bibcode:1984Sci...225..512W. doi:10.1126/science.225.4661.512. PMID 17750854. S2CID 31510972.
  • Widder, E. A.; Johnsen, S.; Bernstein, S. A.; Case, J. F.; Neilson, D. J. (1999). "Thin layers of bioluminescent copepods found at density discontinuities in the water column". Marine Biology. 134 (3): 429–437. doi:10.1007/s002270050559. S2CID 18255901.
  • Johnsen, S. and E.A. Widder. (1999) The physical basis of transparency in biological tissue: Ultrastructure and the minimization of light scattering. J. Theor. Biol. 199: 181–198
  • Widder, E. A. (2010). "Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity". Science. 328 (5979): 704–708. Bibcode:2010Sci...328..704W. doi:10.1126/science.1174269. PMID 20448176. S2CID 2375135.
  • Robinson, N.; Johnsen, S.; Brooks, A.; Frey, L.; Judkins, H.; Vecchione, M.; Widder, E. (2021). "Studying the swift, smart, and shy: Unobtrusive camera-platforms for observing large deep-sea squid."[26]


  • The Bioluminescence Coloring Book
  • Below the Edge of Darkness: A Memoir of Exploring Light and Life in the Deep Sea

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ ORCA – Ocean Research & Conservation Association Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine. Teamorca.org (September 13, 2011). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  2. ^ a b NOAA Ocean Explorer: OceanAGE Careers. Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov (August 5, 2010). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  3. ^ "ORCA – Ocean Research and Conservation Association – Team & Staff". Oceanrecon.org. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2023-10-14.
  4. ^ "The Art of Exploration" (PDF). The Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration Fort Worth. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 10, 2007. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Ross, Michael Elsohn (2014). A World of Her Own: 24 Amazing Women Explorers and Adventurers. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. p. 131. ISBN 9781613744413. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  6. ^ "FAS Memorial Minute: David V. Widder". News.Harvard.edu. Harvard Gazette. December 11, 1997. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  7. ^ Microsoft Word – Widder cv _3_.doc Archived 2009-09-02 at the Wayback Machine. (PDF). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  8. ^ Researcher Bios Archived 2009-08-30 at the Wayback Machine. At-sea.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  9. ^ "Edith Widder (Deep Sea Explorer)". Archived from the original on 2011-09-03.
  10. ^ NOAA Ocean Explorer: Dr. Edie Widder Video Profile. Oceanexplorer.noaa.gov (August 1, 2006). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  11. ^ NOVA | Profile: Edith Widder. Pbs.org (July 23, 2008). Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  12. ^ Access Video On Demand – Midwater Mysteries Archived 2011-08-12 at the Wayback Machine. Avod.films.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  13. ^ National Geographic's Ocean Drifters [VHS]: Movies & TV. Amazon.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  14. ^ Widder, E.; Case, J.; Bernstein, S.; MacIntyre, S.; Lowenstine, M.; Bowlby, M.; Cook, D. (1993). "A new large volume bioluminescence bathyphotometer with defined turbulence excitation". Deep-Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 40 (3): 607–627. Bibcode:1993DSRI...40..607W. doi:10.1016/0967-0637(93)90148-V.
  15. ^ "Eye in the Sea camera reveals mysterious life on the ocean floor", Palm Beach Post, KIM MILLER, March 8, 2009
  16. ^ Schrope, M. (2007). "Marine biology: Lights in the deep". Nature. 450 (7169): 472–474. Bibcode:2007Natur.450..472S. doi:10.1038/450472a. PMID 18033270. S2CID 967413.
  17. ^ The Beauty of Ugly – Interview: Dr. Edith Widder – Eye in the Sea | Nature. PBS. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  18. ^ Edith Widder – MacArthur Foundation . Macfound.org. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  19. ^ Edith Widder: Glowing life in an underwater world | Video on. Ted.com. Retrieved on October 21, 2011.
  20. ^ TED Talk 2013 - Edith Widder: How we found the giant squid on YouTube
  21. ^ "Search For The Giant Squid". OceanX. 2018-05-12. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  22. ^ Jarvis, Brooke (21 June 2019). "Giant Squid Reappears on Video, This Time in U.S. Waters". New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  23. ^ Michaels, Marty (October 26, 2006). "Turning Back the Tide" (PDF). The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Vol. XIX, no. 2. Washington, D.C. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  24. ^ "2015 Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award". Roy Chapman Andrews Society.
  25. ^ "2019 Go Blue Awards - Eleanor Fletcher".
  26. ^ Robinson, Nathan J.; Johnsen, Sönke; Brooks, Annabelle; Frey, Lee; Judkins, Heather; Vecchione, Michael; Widder, Edith (2021). "Studying the swift, smart, and shy: Unobtrusive camera-platforms for observing large deep-sea squid". Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers. 172: 103538. Bibcode:2021DSRI..17203538R. doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2021.103538. S2CID 234817555.

External links[edit]