Thomas Fox O'Brien of Pocasset, who served as a mentor during his 36 years of service at the USGS and in the Woods Hole community of scientists and engineers, died January 3. Mr. O'Brien was 73.
Born in Waltham, he was the son of Ambrose O'Brien and Barbara (Lynch) O'Brien.
He was the former husband of Jo-Anne (Choate) D'Amico.
Mr. O'Brien was a United States Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War.
Following his military service, he began a career in marine technology with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as an electronics technician. Mr. O'Brien served on the R/V Chain in the 1970s, including during a global circumnavigation made by the research vessel. He sailed on many other WHOI cruises and developed a passion for marine geophysics, data acquisition and processing.
Following his tenure at WHOI, Mr. O'Brien worked for Gulf Oil for several years before returning to science in 1983 at the US Geological Survey’s Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center on the Quissett campus.
Mr. O'Brien led many of the marine technology and seafloor mapping innovations for which USGS is known nationally and worldwide. His work included the hardware and software integration of analog and digital sensors, satellite navigation, and computers for collecting geophysical data from the deep sea to shallow estuaries.
He was an early adopter of Unix-based computers and networking, and built the first USGS network in the Crawford building to prototype a seagoing multi-channel seismic acquisition and processing system. His technical expertise was honed during many hundreds of days at sea on research ships, and spanned the technological transition from analog and paper recorders to fully digital data acquisition.
In 1988, Mr. O'Brien was a founder of the USGS Woods Hole Sea Floor Mapping Group, and formed the backbone of the national USGS marine geologic research effort across offices in Woods Hole; Menlo Park and Santa Cruz, California; and St. Petersburg, Florida.
He was admired by those with whom he worked for his dedication and spirit for the job. At the end of his career, he was recognized as a patient, steady and consistent mentor to the next generation of scientists and technologists, both at sea and in the office.
Mr. O'Brien had a broad array of interests that he shared with family and friends. He was an avid motorcyclist from a young age. He took many trips to the Sturgis and Laconia motorcycle rallies, and also enjoyed traveling to MotoGP racing events around the country with his son. He relished anything technological, building and modifying computers, drones, and motorcycles. He also enjoyed fly-fishing in the waters around his home on the Upper Cape.
He leaves his children, Courtney O'Brien and Thomas O'Brien; a sister, Judy O’Brien; and a brother, Kevin O'Brien.
Visitation will be Thursday, January 9, from 5 to 8 PM at Nickerson-Bourne Funeral Home, 40 MacArthur Boulevard in Bourne.
A funeral service will be Friday, January 10, from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM at the funeral home, followed by a 1 PM burial with military honors at Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.