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Wheaton Montessori News

Everyone Has Moved the Earth a Little Bit
Categories: For Parents / General Knowledge Fund / Going Out / MarineLab


The adolescents were working on water quality analysis.  The Junior High and Dr. Bilezikian were on the MarineLab campus, standing and working in what looks like a regular park pavilion.  It was just a roof and some posts, with them working in the open air.  As they were working, an older guy showed up with a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a clipboard in the other.  Dr. B.: “At first, I really didn’t know what to think.  I thought it was just some guy that wandered in.  But as I was watching, the staff didn’t seem alarmed.  It was like they expected him.”  Dr. B. thought he might just be a harmless local.


As he hung about, Dr. B. made eye-contact with the stranger and went over to introduce himself.  The stranger introduced himself simply as “Morgan.”  Dr. B. delved a little deeper and asked what “Morgan’s” connection to MarineLab was.


Morgan: “I’m a biochemist and physicist and they asked me to take a look at their program.”

Dr. B. (silently): Huh.


Dr. Bilezikian sidled up to a member of the staff and asked about “Morgan.”  The staff member responded that “Morgan” is “kind of a big deal.”  Dr. Bilezikan learned that “Morgan” is “Dr. J. Morgan Wells.”


An Expert in the Field

That night, Dr. Bilezikian did some Googling.  The stranger that waltzed into the Adolescents’ water quality lesson is in fact a “big deal!”  Dr. Wells is one of the last aquanauts to have served in SeaLab II.  He is credited with developing and testing enriched air mixes (Nitrox), used by divers to complete deep-sea dives.   He was the first Director of Diving with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.   From Dr. Well’s curriculum vitae we learned:

“He served as a Sealab II Aquanaut during a 15-day, 205 foot helium/oxygen saturation dive, beginning a 30-year career in undersea habitat diving which has resulted in his having spent more time living on the ocean floor in undersea habitats, and having living in more habitats than any diver on the plant.”  –   click here to see Dr. Wells’ impressive curriculum vitae 

Dr. Bilezikian and the Jr. High had stumbled upon a true marine science gem.


The next day, Dr. Bilezikian spotted Dr. Wells and approached him: “Dr. Wells!  Would you have time to give my students a presentation?  I know that your time is valuable.”


Dr. Wells responded: “No, it’s not!”  He happily agreed to talk with our adolescent students.


Dr. Wells came to speak with the Junior High students on Thursday, the last full day of the trip to MarineLab.  He brought along his wife, who was actually one of the nurses that helped Dr. Wells during some of the first high-pressure dive test.  Dr. Wells spoke for a bit then welcomed questions and encouraged the students to discuss with him.


Dr. Bilezikian noted that many of the questions from our Junior High students focused on the “how” and “why” of Dr. Wells’ career.  “How did he decided on his career path?  Why?  How did you know this was what you wanted to do?” And…  “How did your family react when they learned you wanted to do such dangerous work?” Dr. Bilezikian reflected that these questions were very appropriate given the stage of life his students are wading through right now. They’re trying to figure out their own identities, interests, and life goals.


One of Dr. Bilezikian’s favorite quotes from Dr. Wells framed scientific exploration in an extremely poetic way.

“Be polite with Mother Nature.  Ask her nicely about her secrets.  Be polite; use the scientific method.  She WILL reveal her secrets.”


Upon returning from MarineLab, Dr. Bilezikian was still a bit giddy about this chance encounter with greatness.  He was smiling, animated, and excited to share the story with me when I asked.  In fact, he says, “Next to getting up at sunrise with the kids, this was my favorite part of the trip.”


Sunrise over the Florida Keys with our Junior High

Dr. Bilezikian says that he is “…always looking for these people.  If you look for these people, they’re there.  They all have a story.  They’ve all moved the world a little bit.”  If we take the time to introduce ourselves, we can hear how they moved the world.