Steffy, J. Richard 1924-2007 (John Richard Steffy)

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Steffy, J. Richard 1924-2007 (John Richard Steffy)


See index for CA sketch: Born May 1, 1924, in Lancaster, PA; died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, November 29, 2007, in Bryan, TX. Shipwreck analyst, nautical archaeologist, electrical contractor, educator, and author. Steffy worked as an electrical contractor for more than twenty years before his fascination for ships—especially sunken ships—led him to a research field that didn't even have a formal name until he gave it one. He had tinkered with the idea of reconstructing ancient vessels as early as the 1960s before he actually attempted to build an authentic model of a Turkish shipwreck in the early 1970s. From that point onward, Steffy devoted his career, as he once told CA, to "the development of shipwreck analysis as a scientific discipline." With no formal academic credentials, but with proven expertise in this new field, he joined the faculty of Texas A&M University, where he taught until 1990, retiring as the Sara W. and George O. Yamini Professor of Nautical Archaeology. With a colleague, he founded the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at the university, and he became recognized internationally as a consultant on ancient shipbuilding. Steffy participated in several ship reconstruction projects, from the Sea of Galilee to the York River in Virginia. In 1985 he was awarded a prestigious "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Steffy's book, Wooden Shipbuilding and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks (1994) has been called a classic in its highly specialized field.



New York Times, December 4, 2007, p. C21.