Robert C. Seamans, Jr., the ninth Secretary of the United States Air Force died June 28, 2008, at his home in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, following a heart attack. He served as secretary from February 1969 to May 1973, a tumultuous period in Air Force history that included the Vietnam War with its personnel issues involving low reenlistment rates, widespread drug abuse, the antiwar movement, weapons systems modernization, and cost overruns. An authority on guidance and flight control systems for both missiles and spacecraft, Dr. Seamans would use those skills in various managerial positions within and outside the government to include the deputy administrator at the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) during the mid-1960s.
Robert Channing Seamans, Jr. was bon on October 30, 1918, in Salem, Massachusetts. After attending school in Lenox, Massachusetts, he earned a BS degree in engineering at Harvard University in 1939, an MS in aeronautics at MIT in 1942, and a doctorate in instrumentation, also from MIT, in 1951.
From 1941 to 1955, Dr. Seamans held teaching and project-management positions at MIT where he worked on aeronautical problems, including instrumentation and control of airplanes and missiles. Between 1948 to 1959, he served on technical committees of NASA's predecessor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He served as a consultant to the USAF Scientific Advisory Board from 1957 to 1959, as a member of the board from 1959 to 1962, and as associate advisor from 1962 to 1967.
He joined the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1955 as manager of the Airborne Systems Laboratory and Chief Systems Engineer of the Airborne Systems Department located in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1958 he became Chief Engineer of the Missile Electronics and Controls Division at RCA in Burlington, Massachusetts.
In 1960, Dr. Seamans joined NASA as Associate Administrator with responsibilities for research and development programs, field laboratories, assembling and launching facilities, and a worldwide network of tracking stations. From December 1965, until January 1968, he was Deputy Administrator of NASA retaining many of the management responsibilities of his prior position. Much of the development of the space program from completion of Project Mercury through Projects Gemini and Apollo, were approved and put into effect during his tenure.
While at NASA, Dr. Seamans also worked closely with the...