National Academies Press: OpenBook

Robots, People, and Navies (1983)

Chapter: Dr. William B. McLean

« Previous: Dedication by Dr. Robert A. Frosch to Dr. William B. McLean
Suggested Citation:"Dr. William B. McLean." National Research Council. 1983. Robots, People, and Navies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18875.
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Page 12
Suggested Citation:"Dr. William B. McLean." National Research Council. 1983. Robots, People, and Navies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18875.
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Page 13
Suggested Citation:"Dr. William B. McLean." National Research Council. 1983. Robots, People, and Navies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18875.
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Page 14

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DR. WILLIAM B. McLEAN (1914-1976) On June 29, 1974, after 33 years of distinguished federal service, Dr. William B. McLean retired from his position as technical director of the Naval Undersea Center in San Diego, Cali- fornia. At his retirement ceremony, the assistant secretary of the Navy (R&D), Dr. David S. Potter, referred to Dr. McLean as "the greatest scientist of our decade in the Civil Service." Dr. McLean's remarkably successful career was largely due to three talents rarely found in a single individual: he was a creative and innovative scientist-engineer who always preferred the simple rather than the complex solution; his 12

interest, his dedication, and his persistence spanned the range from idea to operational hardware; and he was able to pursue his goals efficiently and effectively within the federal bureaucracy. William Burdette McLean, the son of the Reverend and Mrs. Robert N. McLean, was born in Portland, Oregon, on May 21, 1914. His early interest in science led to enrollment in the California Institute of Technology, where he received his B.S. (1935), M.S. (1937), and Ph.D. (1939). He then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Iowa, where he studied nuclear physics. Completing his studies in 1941, Dr. McLean accepted a position as research physicist at the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., where he worked on the design and production of proximity fuses. In 1945, Dr. McLean began his long and productive association with the U.S. Navy. He accepted a position with the Naval Ordnance Test Station (now Naval Weapons Center) at China Lake, California, where he devoted himself to research and development in the field of ordnance. He became head of the Aviation Ordnance Department in 1950 and technical director of the laboratory in 1954. With the reorganization of the Navy laboratories in 1966, a new laboratory, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (now Naval Undersea Center) was established and ultimately located at San Diego, California. Dr. McLean served as technical director of the new laboratory until his retirement. During his years at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Dr. McLean is credited with the development of many important Navy weapons, such as Sidewinder, ASROC, and the torpedo Mark 46. Upon his transfer to the Naval Undersea Center he was able to more fully indulge his interest in undersea work vehicles. To the two submersibles, MORAY and DEEP JEEP, which resulted from work at China Lake, were added CURV, RUWS, MAKAKAI, DEEP VIEW, and NEMO. Here also, his interests in marine mammals led to a research program that successfully demonstrated the ability of such mammals to perform search and recovery tasks. Dr. McLean's many awards for his achievements included the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service (1958), the American Ordnance Association's Blandy Gold Medal (1960), the Rockefeller Public Service Award for Science, Technology and Engi- neering (1965), the California Institute of Technology Alumni Distin- guished Service Award (1969), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' Harry Diamond Award (1972). He was further recognized by elections to membership in the National Academy of Engineering (1965) and the National Academy of Sciences (1973). 13

DR. ROBERT A. FROSCH 14

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