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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 61
LLOYD VIEL BERKNER
February 1, 1905-June 4, 1967
BY ANTON L. HALES
A SUPREME OPTIMIST, Lloyd Viel Berkner believed firmly that what should be done could be done. He had the ability, furthermore, to persuade others that this was so, thereby getting support for large, expensive projects. As his contemporary, Merle Tuve, wrote:
The astonishing thing about [Berkner's] lifetime of varied activities is the frequency with which his large-scale views and proposals were accepted and worked out, to the mutual benefits of his colleagues and the public which supported them, usually with public funds.1
He presented his views with vigor, yet Vannevar Bush (another contemporary) was able to observe:2
Lloyd V. Berkner was undoubtedly one of the best-liked men in the whole field of science and engineering.
He played a significant role in the scientific effort of World War II and, after it, in the explosive development of public funding for science and technology. At the same time he made major contributions to geophysics and to the development of international cooperation in science.
Frederick Seitz relates the following early illustration of the Berkner style:
As a pall bearer at Berkner's funeral service in Arlington National Cemetery, I stood next to an air admiral who had been one of Berkner's boy-