In memorial of Dr. John H Ryther

July 17, 1922-July 9, 2006



FALMOUTH, MA - John H. Ryther, 84, died on Sunday at Falmouth Hospital after a short respiratory illness.


Dr. Ryther was born in Newton, Massachusetts and graduated from Newton High School excelling as a football and track star.  In 1941, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew P-51 Mustangs in Europe on 83 combat missions, including sorties on D-Day.  


In 1945 he was discharged from the Army Air Corps, at the rank of captain, entered Harvard University on the GI Bill, and in 1951 received a doctorate in Biology. During graduate school, John had a side-job trying to restore salt run brook trout to the Mashpee River. During this time John and his wife Jean spent a memorable summer at a little fishing camp on the Mashpee River.


In the fall of 1951, John was hired by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and received WHOI’s first National Science Foundation Grant to study Great South Bay in Long Island that had been severely polluted by waste from the Long Island Duck Industry.


This $2,000 grant began a 30 year career at WHOI that was highlighted by the 

first chairmanship of the Biology Department, trips to China and Japan, and numerous research cruises to Peru, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean, some on WHOI’s original sailing research ship Atlantis, and others on the converted presidential yacht, Anton Brunn.


He published over 120 scientific publications including several well known publications on Primary Productivity and Fish Production in the Sea. He also co-authored one of the first comprehensive books on Aquaculture and raised the funds to build the Environmental Systems Lab at WHOI to conduct applied aquaculture research.


In 1981, he left Woods Hole temporarily to continue his aquaculture research at the Division of Applied Biology at the Harbor Branch Foundation in Ft. Pierce, Florida.


In 1987, he returned to WHOI, as a Scientist Emeritus and nearly 50 years after his initial work with salt run trout on the Mashpee River, he came full circle and wrote one of his final publications for Trout Unlimited on the behavior of anadromous trout in salt water, visiting trout streams from Long Island to the Canadian Maritimes. He also returned to his hometown of Newton to assist his son Chip on a fish survey of the Lakes District, Charles River. 


John’s passion was fishing and he spent countless hours casting for striped bass and bluefish in Buzzards Bay and West Falmouth Harbor.  With his wife Jean, friends, and family he planned regular fishing trips to the Bahamas and the Caribbean to fly-fish for bonefish, permit, and tarpon.


For his 65th birthday, he was given a beat up women’s bike, complete with baskets and rod holders and although he hadn’t ridden a bicycle in 30 years, he became one of the regular “Canal Boys”, making daily fishing excursions along the Cape Cod Canal. 

He was an avid gardener, and despite a bad back built countless stone walls throughout his property in Hatchville. Known as Pop by his children and grandchildren, he had incredible sense of humor, was a great storyteller and always had a new joke to tell. He was also a very special fishing companion and will be greatly missed.


John is survived by his wife Jean to whom he was married for 61 years. Jean was one of the founders of the Falmouth Artist Guild and is still an avid water color painter. She is also a gourmet cook and kept John very well fed throughout his life.  “I don’t know if John ever cooked a meal in his life.”   At cocktail hour, John and Jean would have their nightly cribbage match, and must have played over 10,000 cribbage games over the course of their 61-year marriage.


John is also survived by his three children who all moved back to Falmouth to be near family and friends.


Son, John (Chip) H. Ryther, Jr. and wife Charlotte


Son, Jeffrey Ryther and wife Mary


Daughter, Sally Chandler and husband Charles


Four Grand Children, Ian Chandler, Anne, Jackson, and Stewart Ryther, and the late Lucy Chandler


A private gathering is being held for family members. To post a note to the family or a special memory of John, go to . In lieu of flowers, donations can by sent to the Falmouth Fire Department Rescue Squad, 399 Main Street, Falmouth, MA 02540.


A memorial guestbook is available at this site. Please sign it for all to read.