John A. Knauss, 90, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration whose work is credited with highlighting the fragility of the world's oceans, has died.

The University of Rhode Island, where Mr. Knauss founded a graduate program in oceanography, confirmed his death. The school said in a statement that Mr. Knauss died peacefully at his home in Saunderstown, R.I., on Nov. 19. No cause of death was given.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and URI president David Dooley said Mr. Knauss played a pivotal role in underscoring the importance of the planet's seas. Whitehouse called him "a visionary leader and a brilliant scientist."

Mr. Knauss also served as undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere in the Commerce Department.

A memorial gathering was planned for Dec. 5 in Narragansett. - AP