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Dr. Spilhaus Biography Events in Twin Cities

A portrait of Athelstan Spilhaus
July 7, 2016

Sharon Moen, science writer with Minnesota Sea Grant, will be in the Twin Cities to share stories about the colorful Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus.

Sharon Moen will be reading from the new biography, With Tomorrow in Mind: How Athelstan Spilhaus Turned America Toward the Future. The biography profiles a man that some called a "gadfly" and others "the flywheel of the machine of American science."
Moen will speak about Dr. Spilhaus and read excerpts from her book at Subtext Books, 6 West 5th Street, St. Paul, on July 21 and at Eat My Words Bookstore, 1228 2nd St. NE, Minneapolis, on July 22.  Both events are free and begin at 7 p.m. 
“Spilhaus is an inspiration for our time,” said Moen. “Over the seven years that it took to bring With Tomorrow in Mind to press, I become keenly aware of what many others grasped before and what a generation could be poised to forget: Spilhaus was genius, the ‘ocean community’s Michelangelo.’”
The biography spans an era of history that includes WWII, the "Roswell Incident" and the space race … and "Spilly," as he was known, had a hand in all of it. He was an oceanographer, educator, inventor, diplomat, artist and visionary.  While serving as Dean of the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota, Spilhaus invented the Minneapolis and St. Paul skyway systems and served as the first U.S. representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 

Spilhaus was responsible for the success of the science pavilion at the Seattle World's Fair and conceived of the National Sea Grant Program, established under President Johnson to focus science research and public outreach on water issues.  Sea Grant, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.  Minnesota Sea Grant is based at the University of Minnesota and supports science and outreach focused on the Great Lakes and Minnesota waters.
Spilhaus wrote a weekly comic strip about science, Our New Age, for the Minneapolis Tribune from 1957 to 1973 that was syndicated around the world to 5 million readers. Spilhaus had an idea to build an experimental city, which motivated people like Buckminster Fuller to join him in designing and almost building such a city in Minnesota. The city would have housed 250,000 residents with no cars or schools, waterless toilets and abundant farms, parks and wilderness.  
Moen has a bachelor’s of science in biology from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s of science in ecology, evolution, and behavior from the University of Minnesota. Well into her second decade with Minnesota Sea Grant as a science writer, Moen believes, like Spilhaus, in pursuing diverse interests. When she is not at her desk, she can be found at the potter’s wheel, larking about outdoors (preferably in a canoe), or standing motionless, transfixed by birds. 

For more information about Minnesota Sea Grant visit; for photos, audio and video of Spilhaus and his work, visit: Tomorrow in Mind by Sharon Moen is available at

Minnesota Sea Grant facilitates interactions among the public and scientists to enhance the environment and economies along Lake Superior and Minnesota's inland waters by identifying information needs, fostering research, and communicating results. Minnesota Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Minnesota. It is part of NOAA Sea Grant, a network of 33 similar science-based programs.