The design and calibration of a proposed in situ spectral absorption meter is evaluated using a laboratory prototype. The design includes a silver coated (second-surface) glass tube, a tungsten light source (stabilized by means of optical feedback), a monochromator, and a solid state detector. The device measures the absorption coefficient plus a portion of the volume scattering function. Theoretical analyses and laboratory experiments which explore the magnitude and variation of the errors due to scattering and internal reflections are described. Similar analyses are performed on the Cary 1 18 Spectrophotometer to allow cross calibration. Algorithms to yield the abscrption coefficient and the zenith-sun diffuse attenuation coefficient are presented and evaluated. Simultaneous measurement of the beam attenuation or backscattering coefficient allows use of algoriThms with much narrower error bands. The various methods of obtaining absorption and diffuse attenuation values are compared. Procedures for using reverse osmosis filtration to produce a clean water calibration standard are described. An absorption spectrum for pure water is obtained. Development of the absorption meter is proceeding along two lines: 1) a two-wavelength side-by-side LED is being fabricated to allow an in situ chlorophyll a absorption meter to be constructed, and 2) scientific projects using a shipboard or laboratory flow.-through pumping system are being planned.