Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 15
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  • LAWRENCE R. GLOSTEN 1918-2010


    LAWRENCE R. GLOSTEN, founder and president, The Glosten Associates, died February 22, 2010, in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Larry was born in New York City on August 5, 1918. His father was a retired rear admiral, having started as a merchant marine officer and later serving in the U.S. Navy in command of troop ships. Larry’s interest in ships started at an early age. He was an avid reader of great sea literature as well as a builder of model ships. At an early age he had heard of the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, which at that time was located in the Bronx, and he decided that it was where he wanted to study. After graduation from high school he took the competitive examination for Webb, was admitted, and received his B.S. degree in 1940.

    Larry had joined the Naval Reserve as a student at Webb and went on active duty two months after graduation. His first assignment was to the New York Naval Shipyard, but after only a few months he was sent to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard where he served as a docking officer and ship superintendent. He was at Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, and in May 1942 was in charge of dry docking the USS Yorktown, which had been damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea. In two days’ time the yard completed repairs initially estimated to require 90 days.1 This enabled Yorktown to play a significant role in the Battle of Midway, an action that is regarded as the turning point in the Pacific war. In 1943 he was sent to the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ships Preliminary Design Division in Washington, D.C., and later evaluated damage to target ships as an observer to the Bikini atom bomb tests. He left active duty in 1946 but continued to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve, retiring with the rank of captain in 1978.

    Upon moving to Seattle in 1953, Glosten entered a partnership with Phillip Spaulding and Hart Livingston. His own consulting practice was established in 1958 as L. R. Glosten, Naval Architect & Marine Engineer. Much of his early work involved the design of tugs and barges for operation at sea and in river systems as widely separated as the Columbia, the Yukon, and the Nile. He designed barges to transport bulk cargo, liquid cargo, containers, and large-diameter pipes for the Alyeska pipeline. One of the barge innovations in which he was involved was the “dry tow” of very large floating structures, such as offshore drilling platforms. In these operations a barge was submerged by flooding internal compartments, the floating cargo was brought over it, and the barge was pumped dry, lifting the cargo out of the water for transport. Another unusual submersible barge design was the Hughes mining barge, part of a Central Intelligence Agency scheme intended to raise a sunken Cold War–era Russian submarine. The Glosten organization designed a number of tugs for both river and sea-going service, including small shallow draft vessels for Northern Alaska, Columbia River towboats, ocean towing vessels, harbor assist, and escort tugs.

    Glosten invented the “Sea Link” articulated tow system by means of which a barge could be pushed ahead of a tug, a more efficient system than the conventional means of towing behind on a long towline. Sea Link provided a degree of motion flexibility and relief from wave-induced loads between tug and barge while still maintaining directional control of the barge. Another, totally different, articulated structure is the floating bridge, consisting of a number of interconnected floating modules, anchored in place to support a roadway crossing a body of water. Glosten performed analyses of the dynamic response to short crested waves of several of the floating bridges in the Seattle–Puget Sound area after one of them, the Hood Canal Bridge, was heavily damaged by a severe winter storm in 1979.

    In the early 1960s Glosten was brought in by the Gunderson shipyard in Portland, Oregon, to consult on and prepare construction plans for a unique oceanographic research platform being constructed for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. FLIP (FLoating Instrument Platform) is a slender spar structure intended to float with its axis vertical when conducting research in the ocean. It consists of two coaxial cylindrical sections, joined end to end by a conical tapered section, having the upper section of smaller diameter than the lower. The total length of FLIP is about 355 feet and, when floating vertically, it has a draft of about 300 feet. By evacuating ballast water from internal tanks, it can rotate (flip) to a horizontal attitude for towing. The ratio of diameters of upper and lower sections is chosen so as to minimize the motion response of FLIP to the ocean waves, and this results in a very stable platform from which to conduct scientific measurements even in high-sea states. FLIP marked the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship between the Glosten organization and Scripps.

    Glosten designed one other Scripps research platform named ORB, a research ship, Alpha Helix, and was also involved in the upkeep and major refits of other ships of the Scripps fleet. His work for Scripps expanded to other oceanographic research organizations, including Woods Hole, the University of Washington, the University of Alaska, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

    One of the Scripps scientists that Glosten worked with once observed, “The one episode that I do recall from about that time—I couldn’t put an exact date on it—had to do with a discussion about the fundamental necessity for seaworthy design, and a caution not to zoom off in the direction of maximizing some other factor without due regard to possible impact on this fundamental.”

    An important part of Glosten’s work was marine risk analysis and included such diverse considerations as dynamic loads and sea fastenings for extraordinary-sized deck cargo, the transportation by barge of radioactive materials, and the safe passage of tankers in restricted waters. An early application began in 1970 with the first Arctic Sea Lift in support of the Alaskan North Slope and the Alyeska pipeline. Barges were used to transport a variety of materials to the North Slope, ranging from thin-walled pipe to large preconstructed industrial modules, weighing up to 3,000 tons each and standing up to 150 feet high. It was necessary to determine the randomly varying loads and sea-fastening requirements to secure such cargoes during the voyage from the American West Coast through the stormy Gulf of Alaska to the North Slope. Much fundamental research on the hydrodynamics and probabilistic nature of ship motions in waves had taken place in the 1950s and 1960s, and Glosten was among the first to apply these analytical methods to such barge transportation problems.

    Glosten’s leadership in barge transportation technology and risk analysis led naturally into involvement in the developing field of barge transport of radioactive materials where he was involved in risk analysis, cargo engineering, operations planning, and design. The pioneering transportation of the decommissioned steam generator from the reactor in Surrey, Virginia, to Hanford, Washington, in 1980 has become a landmark referred to by all subsequent similar projects. Under Glosten’s direction, the safe passage of oil tankers in restricted waters was also studied following the Exxon Valdez grounding and subsequent oil spill. The studies paid particular attention to the efficacy of escort tug intervention following propulsion or steering failures.

    Throughout his career, Larry Glosten established a personal reputation for honesty, integrity, and adherence to the highest ethical standards that was well known in the industry.

    He was a strong supporter of the education and professional development of younger engineers. Within his firm he encouraged broad-minded inquiry, technical innovation, and publication in the technical literature.

    In recent years, Larry continued to participate actively in the affairs of the firm, even after completing a carefully planned transition of ownership and operation to the next generation of engineers. Other members of the firm have begun to make their own marks on the profession, but these achievements, too, can be properly credited to Larry because of the creative environment in which they flourish.

    Larry was always a strong supporter of his professional society, the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and his alma mater, the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture. For many years he was a guest lecturer and advisor to Webb, and in 1990 the Webb Alumni Association recognized his service to his profession and his alma mater with the William Selkirk Owen Award. In 1997, Webb further recognized his achievements with an honorary doctor of science degree.

    Larry was a life fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, where he participated in the technical, educational, and licensing committees of the society. The society awarded him its David W. Taylor Medal, the highest award, for notable achievement in naval architecture in 1988. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1990, where he served as a resource on issues affecting the marine community.

    Larry served as chairman of the board of The Glosten Associates through 2000. After retirement, he and his wife, Lois Peterson “Pete” Glosten, continued to host the firm’s annual picnic at their home on Bainbridge Island to meet the newest Glosten associates.

    An article that he wrote in 1995 describing the first 10 years of The Glosten Associates contained the following characteristic observation:

    “The SEA-LINK episode, with its trials, disappointments and successes, was a difficult experience that I value 

    highly and would not like to have missed. It brought worldwide exposure to our organization and gave us invaluable experience in the engineering business. We earned more friends than money, but that is not an unsatisfactory outcome.”

    Holly farming was a much less well-known Glosten venture. It, too, generated experience and earned more friends than money but not much worldwide exposure. Approximately contemporaneous to the establishment of The Glosten Associates, Larry and Pete purchased seven acres of land on Bainbridge Island, and, with the help of son Larry Jr., Glosten planted 700 holly trees. Nominally, this venture known as Island Holly was part of a diversification strategy: The viability of one enterprise would be unlikely to affect the profitability of the other.

    Most weekends found Larry and his son working on the holly farm—tending the holly trees, clearing new acreage, and planting more evergreens to generate future forests. Larry Jr. considers this experience invaluable both for the skills learned and the motivation it provided to obtain higher education. In fact, he did escape to college, leaving the holly chores to sisters Barbara and Beth. They received other benefits from the farm, as it became a place for their horses to graze. Eventually, Island Holly had a small horse barn.

    The holly trees and horses flourished (as did The Glosten Associates), though it must be said that Island Holly as a business did not. This was of little concern to Larry, since the point was the experience and the joy he got from the land. After Barbara and Beth left for college, Pete and Larry built their new home among the holly trees. Larry could often be found in his wood shop, and in retirement he returned to the craft of model ship building.

    Larry Glosten is survived by his son, Lawrence R. Glosten, Jr., of New York City; daughters Barbara Radovich of San Luis Obispo, California, and Beth Glosten of Redmond, Washington; and three grandchildren. Larry’s wife of almost 64 years, Lois Ann “Pete” Glosten, died on June 15, 2010.


    *Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, vol. 4, p. 81 (New York: Little, Brown, 1949).


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