ST PETER — David Gallo, who grew up in central New York, said his attention-deficit disorder gave him trouble in school.
So when a teacher told Gallo he didn’t have the aptitude for science, it stuck with him. Gallo did end up in science, though he took a non-traditional path.
In 1976, he was in his mid-20s working in a shoe store when he read a National Geographic article by ocean explorer Bob Ballard. The story of discovery reignited a sense of wonder he had first experienced as a child.
By 1987, he had his Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. Not that it was easy. He said it took “focus, persistence, and you have to work your tail off.”
The transition from selling shoes to ocean-diving, at least, gave him a decent pun: After the first 1,000 feet, both get a lot easier, he said.
He is now the director of special projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.
Gallo was the first speaker Tuesday at Gustavus Adolphus College’s 48th annual Nobel Conference in St. Peter, attended by between 4,000 and 5,000 people.
Gallo may be most well known for co-leading an exploration of the Titanic. Mapping the two chunks of the ship was an exercise in patience, given the total lack of light.
“It’s akin to going to the Rocky Mountains to find two boxes of shoes with a flashlight.”
His last thought before descending for a 2 1/2-hour stint in the submarine?
“Should I have gone to the bathroom again?”
Curiosity remains a “driving force” in his science, he said, sometimes to the detriment of his current research.
“I get excited and interested in a lot of things. This morning it was tomatoes,” he said.
At other times, it’s history.