Gilbert "Sparks" Levin


Dr. Levin was designated Experimenter on the Viking Mission to Mars in 1976. On the said project, his pronounced technology detected life on the 'red planet.' However, his findings were discarded by NASA and deemed inconclusive.

Prior to this, Gilbert V. Levin served three years in the U.S Merchant Marines. He partook in both combat theaters and served aboard two separate supply ships. At age 94, Dr. Levin still considers it "the voyage of a lifetime.”

Last week I embarked on a journey to interview a World War II veteran in Palm Beach, Florida. With special thanks to Ron Levin, I was able to interview his lively father; Dr. Gilbert "Sparks" Levin. We met in his sixth-floor apartment bearing a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. After acquainting ourselves, my interview with the world renowned engineer commenced.

In 1941, following his high school graduation, Gilbert Levin joined the Johns Hopkins University’s civil engineering program. However, three years in pursuit of his degree, the draft was imminent for the aspiring developer. To avoid the Army, he researched several military options before ultimately choosing the Merchant Marines at age twenty. By December of 1944, Gilbert was designated a radio operator aboard the cargo ship SS Towanda Victory and deployed for Europe.

Over the next (almost) three years, Levin traveled the world as a Merchant Marine. In the Towanda’s plight to supply our troops, she offloaded supply at countless war-torn ports across Italy, France, England, Britain, and Wales. The victory ship narrowly escaped a Nazi submarine, and gallantly survived German resistance at E-Boat Alley. In June of 1945, Gilbert reluctantly accepted a new ship to call home; an “old, rusty bucket” titled the Henry Jocelyn. Over the next ten non-stop months at sea, Gilbert would venture to Italy, Panama, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Asia, Malaysia, and Egypt; “the voyage of a lifetime” ended with a storm so severe the ship sank in New York harbor the next day.

Following WWII, Gilbert resumed his college education, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering. In 1967 Dr. Levin founded Biospherics Research Inc. (now Spherix Inc.) Under the company, he most notably invented low-calorie sweeteners, safe-for-humans pesticides, wastewater treatment processes and much more. Gilbert’s ability to find microbial life was so publicized that NASA personally awarded him a series contracts to develop methods of detecting extraterrestrial life.

After this science support, Levin competed for and won a NASA contract to develop the experiment into a flight instrument. Dr. Levin was designated Experimenter, and hired Dr. Patricia Ann Straat as his Co-Experimenter, on the Viking Mission to Mars in 1976. On the said mission, his pronounced technique detected strongly positive signals for living microorganisms, therefore life on Mars. However, despite the conclusive evidence, Levin’s findings were discarded by NASA and deemed inconclusive. As of today, Gilbert is “almost” 94-years-old, and continually working hard to legitimize his findings; “I don't know how much longer I can beat old man time. But while I can, I will!”