The deeper I dig the more I find the history of my field (loosely defined as some mix of coastal oceanography, coastal geology and benthic ecology) fascinating. It turns out that a major turning point in our understanding of both waves and tides was motivated by World War II, and specifically the need to safely land a huge number of soldiers and equipment on the beach at Normandy.
Physics Today just published a really nice historical summary of tidal predictions, and their link to D-Day. It is a suggested read for the coast nerd. Find it here.