Dick Steffy, who established the discipline of ship reconstruction almost single-handedly, died on November 29, 2007, at the age of 83.
Dick was a groundbreaking scholar and a wonderfully warm human being. He left a successful and secure career as an electrical engineer to help found the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and the nautical archaeology program at Texas A&M University.
Few scholars create an entirely new discipline. Dick did. In fact, he literally wrote the book on ship reconstruction, titled Wooden Ship Building and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks (1994). All those who came into contact with his gentle genius recognized Dick’s contribution to scholarship. Although he had no formal training, Texas A&M University conferred a full professorship on him, and in 1985 he became a MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
In the 1970s Dick worked with Michael and Susan Katzev and their team on the Kyrenia wreck, a Greek merchant ship that sank c. 300 B.C. off the northern coast of Cyprus. This was the first ancient ship to be raised from the Mediterranean seabed, conserved and reconstructed. Of the multitude of hulls that Dick studied, the Kyrenia ship remained his “baby.” He was still making new discoveries about her during his last days.