Nicholas Hunter Heck, called "Captain Heck" by many of his students and friends, served in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey for forty years. His career began almost immediately following his graduation in 1903 when he earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh University. For twenty years prior to his retirement from the organization in 1945, he was Chief of the Division of Geomagnetism and Seismology later called the Division of Geophysics.
Heck served with the United States Navy in World War I, particularly in the vicinity of the British Isles. He rose in the ranks from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander and eventually Captain. Much of his time while serving in the Navy was spent researching the detection of submerged submarines.
Captain Heck was a member or fellow of the Seismological Society of America, The International Geodetic and Geophysical Union , the Washington Academy of Science, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Society of American Military Engineers, the National Geographic Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the Geological Society of America. In 1942 Heck was honored with the William Bowie Medal in recognition research and contributions to the fields of geophysics and seismology. He was only the fourth recipient of this prestigious award.
At Lehigh, Heck was in Phi Beta Kappa, Forum, the Civil Engineering Society, and involved with the Y.M.C.A. and the Young Men's Christian Association. He was awarded the class composition prize in his sophomore year.
Heck held honorary degrees from both Lehigh University and Fordham University, which he was awarded in 1930 and 1941, respectively. Heck was never married but was survived by his brother, Lewis, also a Lehigh alumnus who was a member of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.