Robert D. Ballard, director of the Center for Marine Exploration and senior scientist at the Deep Submergence Laboratory at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, received the Robert Dexter Conrad Award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Navy's highest honor for scientific achievement. The 50-year-old oceanographer and marine geologist received the award on June 15.

In the early 1970s, Ballard promoted using manned submersibles as a way to explore the mid-Atlantic ridge—before such a practice was widely used.

"I like living on the edge,” says Ballard. “By the time most scientists get used to a paradigm I support, I'm running on to the next one.”

When the majority of the oceanographic community accepted manned submersibles in the mid-1980s, Ballard says, he was promoting the use of deep-sea robotics. And now, as robotics becomes the norm, he is working on using telecommunication networks for deep-sea exploration.

In 1985, Ballard's...

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