Heroes, to me, are people who have tried to beat the odds, people who have made the most of what they have. In hockey, an example from my youth was the Boston Bruins' Eddie Shore. If the Bruins were down by a goal in the middle of the third period, the crowd would start chanting, "We want Shore! We want Shore!" Sooner or later, Eddie Shore would wind up from behind his own net, carry the puck the length of the ice, and (more often than not, it seemed) score the tying goal. Terrific!
In my chosen field of aeronautics, the Wright Brothers were early heroes, taking on the Smithsonian Institution. These were two men who made bicycles, but they went up against the Washington intelligentsia. Charles A. Lindbergh had a similar story, a nobody who succeeded despite great odds. Competing against several more experienced airmen, such as Navy flier Richard E. Byrd, World War I ace René Fonck, and stunt flier Clarence E. Chamberlin, in 1927 Lindbergh became the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. Motivated in part by a $25,000 prize originally offered in 1919 by a New York hotelier from France, the twenty-five-year-old Lindbergh accomplished his amazing feat by insisting on exacting standards for his specially built airplane.
During World War II, tremendous heroes emerged as flyers. After the war, the great challenge was to break the sound barrier. Through my work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), I became involved in studying why an airplane became uncontrollable as it approached the speed of sound. What a thrill it was to listen to the tape recording of Chuck Yeager's commentary as he broke the  sound barrier in October 1947! Then along came the U.S. space program, which took American heroism in flight to a whole new level. I was fortunate to have an inside view of the entire Apollo effort, an accomplishment that I believe will go down as one the most significant ever.
While I was secretary of the Air Force during the Nixon administration, my military assistant was William Y. Smith, an Air Force colonel from Arkansas. He came into my office every morning to brief me. After a while I noticed that every time he sat down, he kept his right leg extended in front of him. When I looked into his record, I saw that he had been shot down during the Korean War, had bailed out of his airplane, and had lost his leg, now replaced by a prosthesis. Further review of his record showed me that he was a West Pointer with a doctorate from Harvard University. By the time he retired, he had been promoted to four-star general. Willie Smith was a person who made the most of what he had, a true hero.
In our family we had an example of heroism ready at hand. General George S. Patton, Jr., married my wife Gene's aunt, Beatrice Ayer. World War II made General Patton a national hero. After the war, he came home for about a week, landing at Bedford Airport. Proud citizens lined virtually his entire route from Bedford to the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, where he spoke that afternoon. Gene's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Keith Merrill, hosted a party for him at their home, Avalon, in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, in the days following. Because meat was still unobtainable, we slaughtered some live chickens, due to war rationing. The next morning, a Sunday, the general spoke at a service at St. John's Church in Beverly Farms. Afterwards we had dinner at Woodstock, Gene's aunt's home in Prides Crossing. In the middle of dinner the general pointed his finger at me and said, "I want you to know that when I came into this family, my father-in-law was very much against war. I told him what I was trying to do in World War I, and he finally said, 'Well, just make sure that, if you're going to be a soldier, you be the best soldier you can be.' The most wonderful thing about this family," the general went on, "is that it energizes people to do the best they can."
I've certainly found that to be true. I couldn't possibly have married a more supportive person than Gene, and I am very grateful as well for the support of her mother, her brother Keith, her sister Romey,  and "the old gentleman," her father. He could seem pretty tough, but he did wonderfully nice things for people, especially behind the scenes. When Gene and I were first married, we were living in a $65-a-month apartment and working pretty hard. He wrote me a note saying that he was proud of how well we were doing and that he thought Gene and I ought to have a chance to get out once in a while and do something by ourselves for fun. So he deposited $100 in our name at the Ritz, told us to go have a good time, and asked me to let him know when we needed more.
I have been lucky in love-and in work. Timing is very important. It just so happened that my professional capabilities meshed well with the timing of professional opportunities. Napoleon, when a soldier was brought to his attention for possible promotion, used to ask, "Est- il heureux?" ("Is he lucky?") What he was looking for were men who, somehow or other, achieved their objectives. In that sense of the word, too, I have been pretty lucky. When there was a job to be done, I did not like to sit around debating; I liked to move ahead.
When I was eleven and going to the Tower School, our class was charged with selling advertisements for the school magazine, the Turret. I trotted around to the retail businesses in town and asked them all to advertise. The other kids selling ads found that wherever they knocked I had been there before them. I came into school with a whole sheaf of orders and by far the most change in my pocket. A full-page ad cost eight dollars.
I don't know why Charles Stark ("Doc") Draper picked me for the first of a series of projects at MIT during and after World War II. Perhaps I was lucky in that, but I usually did get the job done. Each project led to another with greater responsibilities. When the brass came up from the Pentagon to look at something we were developing, Doc used to say, "We're like little boys on the sidewalk watching the fire engines go by." What he meant was that something beyond us was happening and we were little more than observers, happy to be there. Bigger and bigger engines came past me. Finally there was one called NASA. In this case, I wasn't watching from the sidewalk. I was aboard and in the cab. But still like the little kid on the sidewalk, there were times when all I could do was watch with amazement.
My family has always colored my outlook on life, and a variety of family members have served as inspirations for me throughout my career. I barely remember my mother's father, Albert Davis Bosson (1855-1926), but I would say that he was one of the first heroes in my life, once I became aware of his various accomplishments. He had his finger in a lot of different things-the Hood Rubber Company, the Naumkeag Mills in Salem, the Boston and Lockport Block Company (which made pulleys, originally for sailing vessels and more recently for cargo ships and oil rigs). He was a founder of the County Savings Bank, a relatively small institution in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He also served as a judge on the local court. Apparently, people didn't worry as much about conflicts of interest in those days.
My grandfather died when I was seven years old, having suffered from a bad heart for many years. He used to spend summers in Europe taking hot baths and other "cures." My parents told me that, upon his annual return from Europe, he always seemed worse than when he had left to go overseas. He would return to his apartment and go to bed. After three or four days of this, he would start picking up the phone and calling business associates. Then he might have a board meeting or two in his bedroom, and before long, he would be back in his chauffeured car finding out what was going on. With this involvement, he would come alive again. To me, this has always been an interesting commentary on the importance of remaining active.
I wasn't aware of all of my grandfather's business dealings, but I know that he played the piano, and I do remember that he taught me the Lord's Prayer. He was always reading four or five different books-a novel, a book of poetry, one on history, a great variety of things. He liked to work his way through all of them simultaneously.
My mother's maiden name was Pauline Bosson (1894-1969). Although born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, she spent considerable time in Geneva, Switzerland, when she was a very young girl. She spoke French before she spoke English. When she finally went to elementary  school in the Boston area, she was teased unmercifully for her poor English. For secondary education, Mother went to Miss May's School, where she met my future mother-in-law, Katharine Ayer Merrill.
Mother was a superbly complicated person. She was very strong and yet uncertain of herself. She worked hard for the Salem Hospital and for Grace Church in Salem. She was on all kinds of committees, taking on the tough chores that nobody else wanted. But ask her to chair a group, and she wouldn't want to do it. She didn't believe she could run a meeting, though those who knew her well would have said she could run a thousand.
She had lots of friends, people who adored her, but she could be very contrary. We learned as kids that if we had a choice of A or B and wanted B, we had only to say that we wanted A. She would argue with us for a while, whereupon we would say, "Okay, if you insist, we'll do B." In some ways, she was a pessimist. It was her view that summer was over on July 5. "It's downhill all the way from here on," she would say. Somehow that summed up her view of life.
My father, Robert Channing Seamans (1893-1968), was such a mild-mannered man that he seldom fought back when Mother became contentious. They had been married only a short while when Mother decided to splurge on their meager income and buy a roast of beef. She overcooked it, but when Father carved it, he characteristically said, "This is wonderful, Polly!" She said, "You know it's not!" Then she stuck a fork through it, took it out, and tossed it into the swill pail. Coming back into the dining room, she took her corset off and threw it at him, so annoyed was she by his forbearance.
My parents first met at a dance in Salem. As Grandfather Bosson was a director of the Naumkeag Mills, chaired by my great-uncle, Henry Benson, the Bensons invited Mother to visit them in Salem and to attend the dance. Mother said she didn't want to go, but Grandpa insisted: "Polly, it's important to me that you go." Later, Mother was invited back to the Bensons and went more willingly the second and subsequent times. Father knew another young woman named Ellie Rantoul, who had a sports roadster. According to Mother, Father used to tantalize her by driving by the Benson home with Ellie Rantoul when he knew Mother was visiting and might be looking out the window!
At the time of their meeting my father was a student at Harvard  College (class of 1916). He had been born in Marblehead, where my grandparents had the third house on the Neck-in the days when there was no paved causeway, and passage to the Neck depended on the tides. Like many families, they spent the summer in Marblehead and the winter in Salem. Grandma had wanted my father to be named Hugh Gerrish, an old family name. Aunt Rebe (pronounced "Reebee") Benson, my grandmother's sister and the wife of Henry Benson, often invited people to Sunday lunch at her home next door to my grandparents. One day shortly after my father was born, the Episcopal bishop was one of the invited guests. She called up my grandmother and said, "Carrie, the bishop's here. Why not have the baby baptized today?" Grandmother agreed and brought father over to Aunt Rebe's house. When the bishop asked the godmother, Aunt Rebe, for the child's name, she said Robert Channing, not Hugh Gerrish! Apparently Grandmother accepted the choice. I've always been very grateful to Aunt Rebe that my name is not Hugh Gerrish, though Channing was never a family name before that christening. As far as we know, it came straight out of the blue and into Aunt Rebe's head.
Grandmother Seamans, whose maiden name was Caroline Broadhead (1859-1949), was a real sport. On one occasion, when barnstorming pilots arrived at the Beverly airfield to take people for rides in their old open-air two-seaters, she climbed aboard in her long flowing dress and had a grand time. Her husband, my grandfather, Francis Augustus Seamans (1860-1931), ran Perrin Seamans and Company, a Boston hardware supply store.
Father went to Salem High School, Noble and Greenough, and Harvard College. He became interested in architecture as an undergraduate and wanted to continue his studies in this direction. Grandfather Seamans, who had never gone to college himself, figured a bachelor's degree was more than a man needed anyway, and he was certainly not about to send his son to graduate school! So Father became a certified public accountant.
Early on, he served as a bank examiner. About the time I became conscious of what he was doing, he was working in a brokerage house in Boston. After the stock market crash of 1929, however, he lost his job. The following year my father went back to work on a supposedly short-term assignment for the County Savings Bank, the bank founded  by Grandfather Bosson. Grandpa had died, and Mother's older brother, my Uncle Campbell, had taken over the bank, as well as a lot of my grandfather's other affairs. My father offered assistance to people who could not meet their mortgage payments. It was a time when foreclosure didn't necessarily help a bank, because there was no market for repossessed houses. So beyond any humanitarian concerns, the bank had a real economic reason for helping people work out their mortgages. When economic conditions started to improve, homemade bottles of wine and all kinds of other tokens of appreciation began appearing in our house from people my father had helped.
At this time I was just starting to board at the Lenox School in western Massachusetts. Mother and Father came out to see me and said they weren't sure they could keep me in the school. Tuition, room, and board amounted to about $650, and the school was upping the amount to $750. While visiting me, Mother and Father went to see the headmaster to say they didn't see how they could possibly pay the additional $100. I found out afterwards that I had been allowed to stay on for a while at the $650 level.
I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1918, the oldest of three boys. When I came home from boarding school for the first time at age thirteen, my brothers, Peter (born February 19, 1924) and Donald (born January 19, 1927), were waiting for me at the front door. I remember very distinctly being amazed at how young they were. Peter is five years younger than I, Donny eight years younger. We didn't have a great deal in common in those days, but we've since developed many common interests.
I got to know Peter better earlier because we were closer in age. The two of us weren't always very kind to our genial brother. If Donny wanted to join us, we would make up excuses to keep him out. For example, at Christmas time we would claim we were wrapping his presents. Donny went to Bowdoin College. Gene and I drove through Brunswick, Maine, where Bowdoin is located, not long after he had graduated. I knew Bowdoin had just changed presidents, so I went into a Western Union office and sent Donny a telegram signed by the  new president. It stated that, in my new capacity, I wanted to review the status of all Bowdoin graduates to be sure that they came up to the standards of the institution. I requested that all graduates report to a local high school to take a series of tests and that Donny report to Marblehead High School for same. The woman at Western Union looked at my message and asked, "Are you really the new president?"
I answered, "Well, I'm not Abe Lincoln." The telegram was sent. Donny got terribly upset when he received it and started calling around. It took him a while to figure out that I had done the deed. He vowed he would never give me the satisfaction of knowing how upset he had been.
Peter and I ganged up on Donny until Donny got married, at which point his wife, Beverly, put an end to it (except for the final riposte from Brunswick, Maine!). About the second time we started teasing Donny in her presence, she lowered the boom. She's a very strong-minded person and a talented sculptor.
Like several of my boyhood friends, I was an electric-train buff. In the wintertime we would go up in different attics and lay down track and run locomotives all over the rafters.
In the summertime, starting when I was eight years old, I was sent off to Kingswood Camp in Bridgeton, Maine, where there were lots of sports. I enjoyed these, as I did the carpentry program, where we built model boats. Some of my friends back in Salem were very clever at making model biplanes, and I also joined in with them. We were all handy with tools. There was a weather vane over our house in Salem that I built when I was about nine years old. It didn't fall apart immediately.
As a boy, I was an avid reader of Popular Mechanics, and thus developed an early interest in machinery. With another friend of mine, I built crystal radio sets. By the time I was ten or eleven years old, I had figured out how to use one tube for amplification. With a headset I reached the point where I could actually distinguish stations. This was a great step forward. I couldn't always tell what the music was or what the speaker was saying, but at least I could tell if I was listening to music or to conversation! I used to hide under the covers of the bed at night and listen to radio programs, then pretend I was asleep if somebody came into the room.
 I don't know where my interest in building things came from, though I do have at least one famous engineer in my lineage. Grandmother Seamans's maternal grandfather was Otis Tufts (1804-1869), who obtained one of the original patents for the elevator around the time of the Civil War. His model was steam driven. Right after the war, buildings in New York began to exceed five and six stories. His and similar inventions helped make that possible. The Prince of Wales is reported to have come across the ocean to ride in one of great-great-grandpa's elevators.
The aptitude in my immediate family that proved most useful to me in later life was mathematics. An accountant early in his career, my father loved numbers. As secretary of the race committee of the Eastern Yacht Club, he enjoyed calculating daily averages for all the boats. His only sibling, Uncle Dick Seamans, was one of the best accountants in the business, head of his own firm, Seamans, Stetson, and Tuttle, in Boston.
From my earliest life in Salem, Massachusetts, I went to the Tower School, a private elementary school about five blocks from our Broad Street house. (Tower has since moved to Marblehead.) On my first day in kindergarten Ms. Runette and Ms Luscomb, who ran the school, took a look at me as I came in the door. "He's so tall," one of them said. "Start him in first grade." Consequently, I was always a little bit young for my class.
Tower provided a very good basis for going on to high school and college. It was imaginatively run, with much emphasis given to creativity over and above learning by rote. We made a lot of things with papier-maché. We put on many plays, too, for which our poor mothers had to make all kinds of costumes and endure our acting.
The academic curriculum went in very strongly for Greek mythology. We studied Homer's Odyssey and other classics in great depth. We recited a lot of the material and acted out the stories. Classical Greece became almost contemporary in our minds. Tower also had quite a good French program, which would have served me better in later years if more had been spoken.
 The public elementary schools in Salem did not have sports programs, but Tower did. We played football in the fall, hockey on a freshwater pond in the winter, and baseball in the spring. We all kept current on the great professional athletes of the time and tried to pretend we were like them.
Running counter to my love for sports was a history of sinus and respiratory problems. In the spring of 1926, while I was in the third grade, I had measles. Just as I was recovering from measles, I got scarlet fever. A sign was tacked on the front of our house reading, "Beware." We were quarantined! Father was allowed to go to work, but Mother had to stay in the house with me.
After about a week I started having a problem with my left ear. A specialist, Dr. Tolman, drained it. Then one afternoon Stumpy Reed, handyman to Dr. Phippen, my regular doctor, began bringing a lot of equipment into my bedroom. "What's going on?" I asked.
All he would say was: "I feel awful sorry for you, son."
When Stumpy left, I called Mother and asked what was up. Tears came to her eyes. "I just wish it was me having surgery and not you," she said.
I couldn't be taken to the hospital for surgery because I was still contagious with scarlet fever. So Dr. Tolman, Dr. Phippen, and a couple of their associates came and performed a mastoidectomy, the surgical removal of infected bone behind my ear. A mastoidectomy seldom is performed nowadays, because penicillin is so effective. But back then the only thing a doctor could do was hammer away at the bone and remove the infected area. In later years, my parents often recalled the sickening sensation of sitting in the living room and hearing the sound of pounding overhead. Finally they couldn't stand it any longer and climbed the winding stairs to my room. From outside the door, they heard one of the doctors say, "It's lucky we operated today. There wouldn't have been any hope tomorrow." But I recovered without undue complications.
For the summer of 1932, just before I went off to boarding school, Father rented a house in Marblehead, where we went sailing and swimming. We had it for six weeks. The house did not have any hot water on the second floor. To take a bath, we heated water on the stove, carted it upstairs, and poured it in the tub.
The kitchen was an awful mess. I went over with my parents before we moved in and helped them paint it. The house grew with time and was eventually moved to a new site. My brother Donald lives in it today. It is almost unrecognizable from the days when my parents first rented it.
It was in Marblehead as a youth that I started sailing and playing a lot of tennis. Lots of Marblehead kids age ten and up sailed in the same kind of boat, a Brutal Beast. We would go charging around the harbor, racing and bumping into the big boats at anchor. We sailed and raced whenever we weren't playing tennis. David Ives and I eventually bought a slightly bigger T-boat. For the first month, we came in last in every race. We realized we must be improving the day we could still read the name on the stern of the next-to-last boat as it crossed the finish line. A great accomplishment! Before we were through, we won most of the cups that could be won. But that took several years' experience and a new set of sails.
It was presumed that after the eighth grade at Tower, I would go to Kent, an Episcopal boarding school in Connecticut attended by my first cousin on my mother's side, Dave Bosson. He was quite a tiger, who did very well at Kent both academically and athletically. I also had another cousin, James Otis ("Jim") Seamans, who got straight As wherever he went. I was always being compared with the two of them and didn't measure up very well. This didn't bother me very much, but I could tell that it was of some concern to my parents.
Kent School had church services every day and was run by an Episcopal priest named Father Sill, whom I always picture in white robes slightly stained by tobacco. My father took me to see the school.  My uncle Campbell Bosson went along to introduce us to Father Sill. While visiting, I was put up in the infirmary along with some other applicants. We took exams in math, English, and Latin, then had physical examinations and interviews with Father Sill. I well remember climbing the stairs to his garret, arriving at the top, and seeing him at the other end of the room, smoking a pipe and looking very imposing in his white robes. He asked me a number of questions, including whether or not I had been confirmed in church. I said yes, having been confirmed just a few weeks before.
"What denomination were you confirmed in?," he asked.
As far as I was concerned, I went to the same Salem church as everybody else. I had never noticed what the denomination was. So I answered, "I'm not quite sure, but I think it begins with a P."
"Oh, you must be a Presbyterian."
I said, "No, I don't think that sounds right."
He hemmed and hawed a bit, then said, "You're not Episcopalian, are you?" "That sounds right," I said. "I think that's what I am."
When I arrived home several days later, I found Mother in tears. She had just received a letter from Kent informing her that my application for admission had been rejected, although they had "enjoyed having Bobby there." I received a very low mark on the mathematics exam, but did better in English and Latin. The letter indicated that I seemed a bit immature, and I was encouraged to reapply the following year. When I told my parents about my encounter with Father Sill, they figured that was what had done it. This was no laughing matter to them. I'm sure they felt that the Seamans family had not measured up to the Bosson standard. What's more, my application to Kent had cost them $50, plus a donation for the new school chapel.
After hearing the bad news, my parents immediately whisked me off to the Lenox School in Lenox, Massachusetts, for an interview. Nobody ever asked me what school I wanted to attend. I had been sent to camp for four years, and nobody had asked for my views on that either. As a boy in that time and place, I didn't have much control over my destiny.
 At Lenox, I met George Gardner Monks, the headmaster, and was given a couple of fairly perfunctory exams. In answer to one question about Greek mythology, I offered a long tale about Homer's Odyssey thanks to the Tower School curriculum. I was accepted on the spot! When I got back to Tower, I found that my friends had put up big signs saying, "Welcome, Bobby!" and "Congratulations on being admitted to Lenox School!"
Mr. Monks came from what was considered a top-drawer Boston family. He had gone to St. Mark's, one of the more prominent Boston-area boarding schools, and had become a minister. He was a great disciple of the Reverend William Greenough Thayer, headmaster at St. Mark's. Mr. Thayer felt that there was a need for a school that would admit boys who could not afford to go, for one reason or another, to St. Mark's, Groton, Middlesex, or the like, as well as boys who needed remedial training. The result, Lenox, was looked on as somewhat inferior.
It was a self-help school. The students did absolutely everything except cooking and laundry. We set the tables and washed the dishes. We swept the floors and mopped them. We had "work holidays" on some Saturdays, when we boys might have wanted to be out doing other things. All day we raked and generally cleaned up the grounds. As a result of my Lenox education, I can wash a dish better than anybody I know. After my wedding, I made the mistake of demonstrating my wife's relative inefficiency in the kitchen by showing her how to wash dishes. Served me right-I ended up washing them for a good stretch!
School began in mid-September, and we all stayed on campus until December 20, except when parents came to take us out to a meal. (In those days there wasn't a Massachusetts Turnpike, and it was a bit of a struggle for my parents, with two younger sons in tow, to get out there.) For more than three months it was no weekends, no Thanksgiving, no going home. I remember thinking in September that I was going to spend the next fourteen weeks-roughly 1/300th of my whole life span-incarcerated! Still, Lenox was a remarkable school, and it gave me a wonderful background. I had some very good masters during my five years there.
A student tends to get a reputation in a given area, which becomes very hard to change. I got a reputation for not being too facile in English. Mr. ("Snark") Clark, the head of the English department,  was always calling me in and forcing me to rewrite papers. This was a big drag, but very good for me. Nor was I the most thoughtful student in Sacred Studies. My parents were called in once during my sophomore year because I had been caught playing cards during a Sacred Studies exam. I had done no work in the course, and I could see no conceivable purpose for taking the exam. Why pretend that I had done work I hadn't done? My parents were extremely upset with me and made this quite clear by making the long drive, four hours each way, to confront me. I reformed to some extent. Before the year was over, I got Sacred Studies up to a passing grade.
I really enjoyed math and sciences, which came easily. I did well enough in mathematics my sophomore year that Mr. Monks, who taught the course, thought it would be a good thing, as an experiment, for me to take the college boards in math two years early. So that I could do so, I stayed in school one extra week and went over the junior and senior math curricula. As soon as I left the exam room, I knew that I had made one stupid mistake in proving a geometry theorem. I got an 85; if not for that mistake, I would have had 100. After that, the head of the math department gave me and one other boy special problems because we had already fulfilled the school's math requirement.
The Lenox subject that I found most interesting was senior physics, also taught by Mr. Monks, who was a great academic inspiration, especially in my area of greatest interest. As headmaster and minister, he also had an influence on my sense of values. One time, I came in from football and was the last person to leave the locker room, which was in the basement of the main building. I noticed a big electric switch, and just for the fun of it I pulled it. It turned off all the lights in the school. Subsequently, there was an inquiry to determine who had perpetrated the deed. We students were all assembled in the dining hall and were told we were going to stay there until the culprit owned up. I confessed and was given my punishment. The earthworks dam that contained the water for our natural ice-hockey rinks tended to leak. I was tasked with digging a trench all the way around the dam and filling it with clay in order to stop the leaking. I spent several weekends at the dam accomplishing this. What did Mr. Monks have to do with all this? Remarkably, he came down to the dam and worked alongside me.
For a long time I maintained that I wanted to go to the University of Wisconsin after graduating from Lenox. I guess I wanted to go somewhere other than Harvard College, where my two uncles (Richard Seamans and Campbell Bosson) and my father had studied. Why Wisconsin? It was reasonably far from home. In the end, I applied to only one college, Harvard, and began studying there in September 1936.
I had received a high enough grade in English on the college boards that I was allowed to skip the standard freshman English program at Harvard, a noncredit writing course. I was delighted my cousin Jim Seamans, who had been an excellent student at Exeter and who had entered Harvard the same year I did, hadn't done as well on the exam and was required to take the course. Everybody in the Seamans family was convinced that somehow the two examinations had been swapped! What really happened was this. The college boards in those days weren't the multiple-choice, true-or-false affairs of today. The questions were substantive and required essay-type answers. On the English exam, we were asked to discuss books of four different kinds. With my background in Sacred Studies, I selected four books of the Bible. This staggered the examiners, or so I was told afterwards by "Snark" Clark, who knew the teacher who had read my paper.
The training I had received at boarding school was so much better than that given in most high schools that my freshman year at Harvard was straightforward. My roommate, Stratton Christensen, and I worked hard and got good grades. I was reasonably straitlaced, studying at night and going to classes in the day, while trying to compete at football, hockey, and baseball. I didn't do very well in college athletics, but I did get out there and play the game. The summer after freshman year I didn't have anything to do, so I took a full-credit course in surveying given at Squam Lake in New Hampshire. I found it fascinating. I got to know Professor Albert Haertline quite well, the camp director and a Harvard classmate of my father. He was an old-time civil engineering type, who wore knickers and big boots and liked to hike up and down through the woods, surveying. I also got to know a number of students who were already concentrating in engineering. I pursued engineering studies from there on.
 The engineering faculty at Harvard was fairly small, but it had some remark ably good people. Professor Haertline became my advisor and was most helpful in his discussions with me. Den Hartog, who taught mechanical engineering, became a captain in the Navy during World War II, then came back and headed up the department of mechanical engineering at MIT. The extent to which a Harvard engineering student could concentrate in a particular area was limited. For me, there was beauty in that. I didn't have a very clear picture of what I was going to do with my life. It had been expected of me that I would go to college and get a degree, and I was doing so. But what I was going to do with the degree I didn't know. So Harvard's generalist approach to engineering allowed me to sample different fields-electrical, mechanical, civil, and aeronautical engineering. I discovered that I was especially interested in aeronautics, as taught by Bill Bollay. He wasn't a charismatic figure, but he had considerable technical ability. After serving as a naval captain in World War II, he went out west and became one of the key people in the Autonetics Division at North American Aviation.
With extra credit for the summer surveying program and for the advanced English course I had taken in place of the freshman non-credit writing course, I entered my sophomore year with six of the sixteen credits needed to graduate. So I thought, why hang around? Why not polish it off in three years? That meant taking five full courses each of my last two years. Against everyone's advice, I took six courses during the second half of sophomore year. One of the six was Astronomy 2a, which included a section on celestial navigation. In one of the key assignments, we were put in a hypothetical boat off Bermuda, given a lot of star sights, and asked to determine where we would make landfall. The night before the exam I still had not done the assignment. Nor had I studied for the exam. I had learned that the best way for me to study under that kind of last-minute pressure was to work for two or three hours, catch a couple of hours' sleep, then get up and work again-alternating work and sleep throughout the night. This time, however, I was in such deep trouble that I got hardly any sleep at all. The following morning I was so afraid that I would fall asleep during the exam that I filled an ink bottle with whiskey and drank some periodically during the exam to stay awake. Not very smart.
 It was during this already overworked sophomore year that I realized there was more to life than books. There was wine. There were women. There was song. As undergraduates we were invited to too many dances, and I decided I was going to go to every one I was invited to and have a good time at each. During the winter months I also went north to ski almost every weekend. In general, my life became a pretty big mess. I got very little sleep. More than once, I went into class wearing my tuxedo from the night before. Then in February I got a terrible cold. When I finally got around to seeing the doctor at the college infirmary, he sent me to bed for ten days. The day I got out of bed, there was a duplicate bridge tournament I wanted very much to play in. I played until three in the morning and never felt more tired in my life. I did pass all six courses that spring semester, but I didn't do particularly well in any of them.
During that summer of 1938, my pace never let up. Right after exams, I went down to New London for the crew races, then raced back to Boston in a friend's sailboat. I arrived back in Salem just in time to be an usher at my cousin's wedding. Two days later, I was aboard the good ship Columbus of the German-American Line, sailing for Plymouth, England, with my friends David Ives and Johnny Brooks. The itinerary called for me to meet my parents and brothers on the Continent after a bicycle tour of England with Dave and Johnny. The three of us didn't live a very healthy life on shipboard. We had almost the cheapest room on the boat, sleeping in a tripledecker below the waterline. It was so horrible in third class that we found a trick way into first class and from there into tourist class. The stewards in first class were always rather suspicious of us when they came to serve tea at five o'clock, but we stuck close to some girls who were traveling in first class with their parents, so the stewards couldn't kick us out. We met a second set of girls, who also provided cover for us, in tourist class. That was a lot of fun.
As soon as we got to Plymouth, we hopped on rented bicycles and went tearing off over hilly country, ending up in a little town called Launcestown. That night I was as dizzy as I had ever been and felt  terrible. The following morning I went to see a doctor who said, "Obviously you've had a strenuous crossing. Get a couple days' rest before you continue your travels." My condition persisted. After completing my itinerary in Great Britain earlier than planned, I parted company with my friends and headed for Berlin where I joined my Grandmother Bosson,1 Mother, my brother Peter, my aunt and uncle, and some Bosson cousins. To get there, I flew across the English Channel, my first flight in a plane. Then I had a couple of days in Paris on my own, before getting on the Berlin train. I got in a taxi at the Berlin station and arrived at the Hotel Bristol without enough money to pay my taxi fare. Fortunately, someone in the family was there to bail me out.
I told my mother about my poor physical condition, and she insisted that I go to a doctor in Berlin. He told my mother, "Oh, he's fine. All this boy needs is some mountain climbing." Later that summer in Switzerland, where Father and Donny joined us, we did do some climbing. On one expedition, while roped together on a snowfield on our way up the Breithorn, I said that there was something very wrong. A guide took me back to the hotel, where my condition did not improve.
We went on to Italy where we spent two weeks on the Mediterranean. Then we sailed home aboard the Italian liner Saturnia. By the time we got back to Marblehead, the exhaustion I felt was indescribable. I slept all night and woke up feeling worse than when I went to bed. I went to see Dr. Cadis Phipps. He said that I had endocarditis, whatever that was, and that I should take it easy. Under his care, I found my third year at college very different from the other two. I could not exercise. If I went out and rowed a short distance, I felt weird. I continued to go north on weekends with my friends, but I couldn't ski. When I tried to, I got a very unpleasant disembodied sensation. So I took pictures instead. On the positive side, I spent more time studying than I had during my sophomore year. As a result I finished up my final year at Harvard in 1939 getting good grades. I missed graduating with honors, but I did manage to complete my studies within the three-year period I had set myself.
 In the summer of 1939, following my third and final year at Harvard, I took a bus to a ranch in Montana. Once there, I knew I was in trouble and called Dr. Phipps. "You had better come home," he said. When I went to see him in Boston, he talked of endocarditis again and used other terms that didn't have any meaning for me or my parents. Then he said, "I think you had better have some real bed rest." I was put in bed for an indeterminate period of time.
This had quite an impact on how I viewed things. As far as I was concerned, I had had it. My life was going to be severely limited from then on. I would not be able to go mountain climbing or ski or play tennis ever again. People were very generous of their time, coming to see me and doing many thoughtful things for me, so that I got to know a lot of people better than before. I also did a lot of reading that I otherwise wouldn't have done. I had several friends in the medical profession who brought me material to read. I started thinking of shifting from engineering into medicine, assuming I would eventually be up and around again.
My parents refused to be disheartened. They set about finding the best cardiologist available. Dr. Phipps was a good doctor, but by this point we knew he wasn't our doctor, because he couldn't explain to us in a helpful way what was going on. After a lot of investigation my parents found Dr. Paul Dudley White, one of the great cardiologists. When the King of Sweden had a heart problem, he called on Paul White. But how to get him to come from Boston to Salem to see me? By sheer coincidence our next-door neighbor, Dick Wiswall, had been Dr. White's roommate at Middlesex School. Through him we got a house call.
I asked my parents not to tell me what day Dr. White was coming, because I was sure that it would worsen my condition by making me apprehensive. I wanted him to see me under the best possible conditions.
On the walls of my room, I had pictures I had taken of friends skiing and sailing. When Dr. White came in at long last, he began by commenting on them. I responded by saying, "I guess I'll never be able to do that sort of thing again."
"Well, how do we know?" he said. "Let's take a look." He took out his stethoscope and listened. "That's a really peppy-sounding heart," he said. He had some tests run. Soon he had diagnosed my condition as rheumatic fever. He did not prescribe any pharmaceutical or surgical remedy but rather encouraged me to slowly get myself up  and about.2 Dr. White's optimism, combined with my confidence in him, changed my life. Soon after that visit, I was able to get up ten minutes a day, then fifteen minutes, then twenty. After a month I was able to go up and down stairs once in a day. It was not long before I could walk out the front door, then walk to the Wiswalls and back. I finally reached the amazing day when I walked all the way around the block by myself. What a wonderful feeling: I hadn't had so much freedom, exercise, and fresh air in months!
After a half-year of recuperation I was mobile again, and I went to the graduation exercises of my Harvard class in June 1940. By early in the summer, I seemed pretty well cured, and I found I could be quite active again, with Dr. White's blessing. I played a little bit of tennis. I was able to sail with no ill effects. Every time I tried something new and got away with it, I thought, "This is terrific. I never really thought I was going to be able to do this again." I went back to Harvard that summer to take courses in biology and botany, prerequisites if I was going to pursue my new interest in medicine. It was a pleasant experience. I particularly enjoyed the course in biology.
I had other pleasant experiences that summer, all stemming from an encounter the previous fall, while I was recuperating in bed. I had received an invitation to the coming-out party of Rosemary Merrill, who summered at her parents' Prides Crossing home known as Avalon. Mother, who had known Mrs. Merrill since their days together at Miss May's School, called for me to say that I would be unable to attend. Not long after that, I got word that Mrs. Merrill was coming over to see me. Little did I know that a very beautiful nineteen-year-old by the name of Rosemary was coming along. Romey, as she was called, was very striking-with black hair, a lovely face, and a lot of bounce. Within the next few months, she visited me two or three  more times. Her family returned to their winter home in Washington, D.C., and we wrote each other a number of times.
The following summer I thought I would go down and see where the Merrills lived. Anyone else would have called ahead, but I didn't. I was driving around in the area in my old Dodge and headed unannounced up the Avalon driveway. It was considerably longer than I had expected, and the house was bigger. Adolfo, the butler, came to the door and asked what I was doing. I said I was there to see Miss Rosemary Merrill. He let me in. Romey was notified but didn't recognize me when she came down the big circular staircase. She had never seen me standing up! Mrs. Merrill was alerted and very cordially invited me to sit down in the extensive living room. Eugenia, Romey's younger sister, who was known as Gene, was called in. She was dressed in a paint-spattered smock. She had her own studio in the house, devoted exclusively to her painting. As we sat there chatting, I didn't have the finesse to excuse myself after a moderate time. So what else could Mrs. Merrill do? She asked if I would like to stay for lunch.
"That would be wonderful!," I said.
Unfortunately, Romey had to leave to go racing in Marblehead; so I had lunch with Gene and Mr. and Mrs. Merrill. Afterwards, I was asked to join them on the porch.
"Sure!" I said. They asked if I had ever played Chinese checkers. I had; so we had a game and a cup of coffee. Finally I did leave, never realizing how displeased Gene had been to have left her paints in deference to an uninvited stranger.
Mother was very curious about such social encounters, and when I got home she asked me about my visit. Didn't Romey have a sister? Had I met her? What was she like? I said, "Well, she's a little bit plump and quite young." I really didn't have a very clear impression of Gene after that first visit, but when I was invited to Avalon on a couple of occasions later that summer, I came to realize that my first observations of her were inaccurate, to say the least.
When September 1940 rolled around, I had to make a decision on my future. I talked to my old undergraduate advisor, Professor Haertline,  a wonderful sounding board. Though he didn't tell me what to do, he pointed out that my undergraduate engineering studies were a very good background for medicine, if I wanted to follow that route. Then he asked me, "What kind of a doctor do you think you would be?"
"Well, to be honest with you," I answered, "I think I could be a better engineer than doctor." I realized I had taken naturally to engineering sciences during my undergraduate career and had had no difficulty getting top grades in the field. That seemed to be an indication of how I might make out professionally. Biology had not come as easily for me. The subject matter didn't fit as neatly in my mind. For me there was an intellectual difference between medicine and engineering. As a doctor, I'm sure I would have liked working with people and trying to figure out what their problems were. But it appeared to me then (and still appears to me now) that there's a lot more mathematics in engineering, that medical practice is much more a question of remembering things-anatomy, symptoms, prescriptions, and so on.. I'm sure a practitioner has to be fairly nimble mentally. But doctors are often writing a prescription they've memorized for a set of symptoms they've also memorized.
The upshot of my meeting with Haertline was that I decided to go back to Harvard to do graduate work in aeronautical engineering under Bill Bollay. I was not quite sure that I was physically ready for a full load, so I signed up for just two graduate courses that fall. A good friend and classmate of mine, Richard E. ("Dick") Lewis, was entering the same program. The day after the semester began, he said, "I wonder if we're doing the right thing. If we're really interested in this field, shouldn't we be at MIT?"
By this time I had realized that Professor Bollay's course in aeronautical engineering was not very different from what we had taken as undergraduates. The other course I had signed up for was being given Fridays and Saturdays by an adjunct professor coming up from the Chance-Vought Corporation in Stamford, Connecticut. Dick quite rightly said, "Look, if you go over to MIT, you're going to have full-time faculty members, not adjunct professors." Then he said, "I'm going over to MIT this afternoon to see the dean of admissions. Do you want to come along?"
I knew very little about the institute, but I said, "Sure, why not?" So we went over to Dean B. Alden Thresher's office.
 "Okay, boys," he said, "tell me a little bit about yourselves." When we were finished with our brief oral r»sum»s, he said, "You two did quite well at Harvard. I think we can get you started here as sophomores, although you may have a few deficiencies."
We both stood up and said we weren't interested in starting all over again towards a bachelor's degree. "Well," he said, "maybe I'm underestimating the extent of your engineering background. Here are some forms you can fill out. Take them around to the various departments and see how much credit they'll give you."
When we had left the dean's office, Dick said, "I'm going to stay at Harvard."3 I took my form home, read it, and filled it out. Then I read the MIT catalog and went around to the departments, as Dean Thresher had recommended. I did some bargaining over equivalencies and quickly found that I was well beyond the sophomore level. My last stop was at the office of Professor R. H. Smith, acting head of what was then called aeronautical engineering (now aeronautics and astronautics). By this point, I was beginning to visualize myself taking one undergraduate year at MIT. I liked what I saw, walking up and down the corridors: all those labs and machine shops! Compared to Pierce Hall, the single building devoted to engineering at Harvard, MIT had so many interesting alternatives and possibilities. Smith said, "I just can't understand why you want to be an undergraduate.. Why don't you come here as a graduate student?" That sounded fine to me. "Let me call Thresher," he said, picking up the phone.
He and the dean had quite an argument on the phone. At one point Smith turned to me and asked, "Have you had descriptive geometry?"
"Sure, I've had it," I answered.
When he finally hung up, Smith said, "We can admit you to graduate studies in aeronautical engineering." I later learned that it is the prerogative of each department to admit whomever they wish to their graduate school. "Well, all right," I said, "but now, how long do you think it will take me to get a master's degree? You've seen my record."
 Smith said, "You haven't had very much aeronautical engineering, so you're going to have to do a lot of work...unless, that is, you decide to specialize in instrumentation."
"I'm not sure I can explain it well. You ought to go and see Dr. Draper. That's his province."
I was pretty excited about what I had seen. I went home and told my parents I was going to MIT. They were quite upset at my vacillation. First I had talked about going to medical school; then I was going to graduate school in engineering at Harvard; now suddenly I'm going to MIT! Classes started the following week, and all of a sudden I was taking a full set of courses. I did well. I had a cumulative average of 4.8 (on a scale of 0 to 5). I not only enjoyed the courses, I worked hard at them and didn't fool around with a lot of other things.
Dr. Charles Stark ("Doc") Draper, the instrumentation professor, was a Stanford University graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology. After Stanford, he came through Cambridge on a lark, stopped at MIT, and decided he wanted to study there. Before he was through, he had taken more MIT courses for credit than anybody has ever taken before or since, earning a B.S. in electrochemical engineering in 1926, an M.S. without specification of department in 1928, and an Sc.D. in physics in 1938. He became especially interested in propulsion and engines. He found that there were no reliable instruments to tell a research engineer, much less a pilot, how an engine was performing. A pilot himself, Doc became increasingly interested in gyroscopes, horizon indicators, and the like. Then he moved into the field of fire control, the science of aiming guns at moving targets.
I didn't get a chance to see Doc Draper before my first day of classes at MIT, but I did attend the first lecture in his introductory course in instrumentation, number 16.41. (Everything at the institute is by the numbers!) It was standing room only in the largest classroom in the building. Doc Draper came bouncing in wearing a green eyeshade. He was quite short of stature and heavyset, but I could see right away that he was one of the most dynamic people I had ever  met. He had a broken nose because, I later learned, he had once been a prizefighter.
"I'm delighted you're all here," he said, "but let's not kid ourselves. If you're going into this profession, you're never going to make a lot of money. Face it right now. You'll be lucky to earn $10,000 a year. You're not going to have money for race horses or for buying a mink coat for your wife. But," he added, "you'll have a hell of a lot of fun."
At that point $10,000 seemed like a lot of money to me. But that was secondary. I was intrigued immediately by the material. The discussions were lively, with a lot of give-and-take. Doc Draper was running MIT's Instrumentation Laboratory, and he brought material from his lab work into the classroom. I quickly realized that I was faced not with somebody who had never practiced but with a person who was leading the pack and telling you what he was doing. I reacted differently to him than I had to other, more theoretically oriented professors. Doc Draper was making a living doing something important! All I wanted was to know more about it myself. The Instrumentation Lab was working with the Sperry Gyroscope Company on vibration-measuring equipment, so we students were soon experimenting with accelerometers and vibration pickups and all the electronics connected with them. The lab was also doing classified work (which we students had nothing to do with) on anti-aircraft fire control for the British navy. Why the British navy? Because the Sperry Corporation, which manufactured the U.S. Navy gunsights then in use, had convinced our military that their system-much more complicated (and therefore more expensive!) than Doc's system-was the only option. After Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941), the government commandeered all foreign research, and Doc Draper's British navy work was turned over to our military by fiat.
That first year of graduate studies at MIT was far and away the most exciting academic year I had ever had. For example, I took a course in Laplace transforms and spent a whole weekend solving problems using the theory of complex variables. Suddenly I understood this type of mathematics, and the power of it was quite a revelation to me. To think of the problems it could solve! But nothing could match the excitement of instrumentation. The real fun of it was to do the studies, then actually build the hardware based on the  theory. And sometimes it worked! Doc Draper would describe the fun of making something work as "defeating Mother Nature." Design something, build it, and test it successfully-and you've made something useful for a small part of our society.
It was the first time in my life that I could begin to visualize what it would be like to go into a field as a professional rather than just to study it in books. I was becoming very intrigued with airplanes-what permitted them to fly efficiently, what powered them, and what controlled them. Before the year was over, Doc Draper had taken us through all the major instruments that are required to pilot, to navigate, and to test a plane, and I could clearly visualize the possibility of working either for an aircraft or instrumentation company or for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The whole business was fascinating.
I didn't miss watching any varsity games while I was at Harvard. During the fall of 1940, while I was beginning my work at MIT, I invited three young women to go to three different games with me. While at a party at Avalon, I invited Gene Merrill. She didn't answer yea or nay right away, but as I was leaving through the foyer, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Gene, saying she would like to go to the game. I had a wonderful time with her that Saturday afternoon. We drove to Cambridge in my old beaten-up Dodge coupe and parked near Leverett House. After the game, we came out to the car and found a window smashed. Several things had been stolen, but fortunately Gene's fur coat was not one of them. It was a cold night, and on the drive back to Avalon she had to sit a little bit closer to me than she otherwise might have.
Before Christmas 1940, I was invited to Gene's coming-out party in Washington. Bythen I had developed a strong interest in her, and I was disappointed by my three days there. I found her a bit distant. I came up with the idea of taking a trip to Annapolis in order to have an opportunity to be alone with Gene. My cousin Jim Seamans lived there, and I thought that the hour's drive back and forth would give us a chance to talk. When I broached the subject, Gene said, "I've talked to Mother, and she said take the station wagon"-meaning I was to go  alone! By the time Appel, the Merrills' chauffeur, drove me to the station a couple of days later, I was not sure I would be seeing Gene again.
When I got back to MIT, I was immersed immediately in preparing for exams, so I was able to take my mind off Gene. I knew Tina Vaughan, one of Gene's great friends, and to my surprise, I found that Tina was quite encouraging. At least, she said all was not lost with Gene. I was pleased. Then I got a couple of unsigned valentines. One had been mailed in Boston. When I was with Tina not long after that, I was delighted to learn that Gene had been in Boston at the time of the postmark.
I had done quite a bit of sailing with Gene's and Romey's older brother, Keith, in summers prior to 1941, but that year I found myself being invited to race with him more than ever. The Merrills were early risers, while we Seamanses were just the opposite. I got phone calls at quarter to seven, when everybody in our house was sound asleep. It was Keith asking if I could go racing with him. When we met, lo and behold, the crew would be Keith, Gene, and myself. I invited her to a few dances, and we got to know one another quite well.
Once we went with Keith and another young woman to the Ritz in Boston to hear Ruby Newman and his orchestra. The music stopped at midnight. When Gene and I got in my car to drive home, I asked her if she would be at all interested in going over to MIT to see the laboratory where I was working. I simply wanted to stretch out what was for me a most enjoyable evening. By the time we got to Avalon, it was about 2:30 a.m. I began walking Gene to the front door, when we both saw the silhouette of Mrs. Merrill in her bathrobe, standing in the doorway. Gene surreptitiously put her hand behind her back and gestured to me to back off and get going. A couple of days later, when I next saw Gene, she told me that her father had grilled her on the layout and contents of my MIT lab. Apparently Gene satisfied him by talking about the stroboscope and other equipment. Another time, when we were out bicycling in Topsfield a bit later in the day than Mr. Merrill thought appropriate, she was interrogated again.
I realized by late in the summer that things were developing with which I had never been involved before. I had never known a young woman so well, nor had I ever had such a good time with one. I do not know to what extent Gene or I was taking the lead. I guess it was mutual.
One day that summer I dropped by MIT to take a look at what I might do for a thesis in the fall. I went into Doc Draper's office and asked him if he had any suggestions. He talked about the program he was working on for Sperry Gyroscope Company, developing vibration-measuring equipment. He said that if I would care to work on it, he would take me on as a research assistant; I could satisfy my thesis requirement; and he would pay me, to boot. I was going to get paid to study! It sounded like a great idea. "When do I start?," I asked.
"It would be great if you could start right away." I was assigned to Professor Homer Oldfield, whom everyone called Barney, after a famous racetrack driver of an earlier era. I spent my days in the basement of the building testing the performance of vibration-measuring equipment. Just outside my door was the place where all the trash in the building was collected. This work environment wasn't very attractive or aromatic, but it was satisfying getting some good, hard data and checking it against theory. The people in the lab, together with the faculty, were a great group with which to work. Early on,Doc Draper sent me over to three of his friends in electrical engineering: Edgerton, Greer, and Germashausen. They turned out to be the founders of EG&G, a very successful corporation. The scope of what was going on at MIT was at least an order of magnitude greater than what I had experienced in engineering at Harvard.
Soon, to my amazement, Barney Oldfield wasn't around very much. He seemed to be in and out, mostly out, leaving me alone with the equipment in the basement. He probably knew he was about to be called up into the Army Signal Corps and was straightening out his affairs. About six weeks after my arrival, Barney was in the Army. Doc Draper came to me and asked if I would be interested in teaching in Barney's place. I said I would. As fall rolled around, I found myself an instructor at MIT! That first semester, I helped teach 16.41, the basic instrumentation course. I began by grading papers and setting up the lab experiments to be carried out by the students. By the following spring I was in front of a class, doing some of the teaching myself.
My master's thesis, which I completed the following year, had the  unlikely title of "Design and Test of a Vibration Pickup with Improved Performance by Hydrodynamic Effects." That may not mean an awful lot to the layman, but to me it meant a summer job in Pasadena immediately after Gene and I were married.
My professional start-up with Doc Draper overlapped my start-up with Gene. In November 1941, just as I was getting established as an instructor at MIT, Gene came up from Washington to go to the Harvard-Yale game with me. She stayed with my family at a house my parents had rented from friends in Marblehead. We had a lot of things planned for the weekend, but at one point early on, we drove down to Revere Beach, stopped in the big parking lot there, and looked out at the ocean. I led up to the big question gently. "I want to ask you something," I said, "and I would like you to think about it before answering." I was afraid I was going to get the wrong answer, namely no, and I thought that I would like at least to enjoy the weekend.
Gene later told me that she had had a very hard time not saying yes right off the bat. Without giving me an answer, she got back on the train for Washington with her mother and with Romey, who had come north to visit the Merrills' Prides Crossing neighbor Caleb Loring, Jr. On the way to Washington, Romey told Mrs. Merrill that Caleb had proposed to her. Gene couldn't resist telling her mother that I had proposed on the same day. A weekend or two later Gene came back for another visit and accepted my proposal. (Caleb got the same answer from Romey.) Gene and I went out for a bike ride that weekend. When we got back, we heard on the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
Caleb and I were invited to the Hillsboro Club in Pompano Beach, Florida, to spend Christmas with the Merrills. I couldn't imagine not being home for Christmas; I had always had Christmas dinner with my great aunt Rebe Benson and about fifty or sixty other family members. So I told Gene I would leave Boston on Christmas afternoon and be at Hillsboro over New Year's. During the previous month I had been very busy and had not written many letters. I arrived in Florida, not knowing that Gene had told her family about our intentions. On the second or third day Gene said, "Don't you think it's time you had a chat with Mother and Father?"
 "What's the big rush?," I asked. Finally one evening I met with Mr. and Mrs. Merrill. Mr. Merrill started in by asking, "How do you think you could possibly provide for my daughter?"
I thought I was pretty well-off. After all, I had a job that was paying me $1,200 a year. I said, "I believe we can work it out."
"Maybe you can, but I just want you to know what it's like to have a daughter who is very fond of somebody, a daughter who looks through the incoming mail every day and who finds nothing there. Do you realize the way you've treated her?" He went on in this vein at considerable length. It was not a very happy encounter.
I started to become afraid of what I might say. I finally said, "I don't think this meeting is going anywhere," and got up and walked out the door. Gene could tell something was wrong the moment I rejoined her. We walked about a hundred yards down the beach, and I became violently sick to my stomach.
Wonderfully, Mrs. Merrill stepped in as intermediary and arranged another meeting of the four of us together. We had a lovely lunch the following day, and I was elated by the outcome.
During my visit, Gene and I used her painting as a pretext for getting away alone together. After I had driven Gene on three or four consecutive days of artistic expeditions, her mother very sweetly said, "Gene, I think it's about time you showed us what you've been painting." There was nothing to show, but Gene did a very quick and skillful job on a fresh canvas and managed to pass it off as her work for the week. I still treasure that picture.
That spring my parents had a party for Gene, so that all of my friends in Marblehead and Salem could meet her. Mr. and Mrs. Merrill came north with Gene and stayed with us for a few days in Marblehead. Father and Mr. Merrill got along very well. At one point Mr. Merrill said, "Bob, your son probably figures that I've been pretty rough on him, but I think that young men these days have it much too easy. A fellow has to realize that when he takes on responsibility for someone for the rest of his life, it isn't something to be done casually." I found out later that Mrs. Merrill's father, Frederick Ayer, had given Mr. Merrill somewhat the same treatment. Mr. Merrill had been forced to wait a couple of years before marrying Gene's mother.
We formally announced our engagement on March 22. I drove  down to Washington for the occasion with my parents. I kept telling Mother how wonderful the trip would be: March in Washington! Mother, who was somewhat psychic and often pessimistic, kept saying, "I don't think this weather looks too great."
"Look," I said, "the flowers are coming out."
Mother wasn't convinced. We got to Washington on Friday. Mother woke up at three o'clock Saturday morning and said to my father, "I think it's snowing out."
"Come on, Polly," he said, "go back to sleep."
By the end of the blizzard, Washington had eighteen inches of snow. For as long as she lived, Mother never let me forget. As a result of the storm, a lot of people called to say they couldn't make it to the party, and we spent the whole morning shoveling snow from the Merrills' driveway. It was a wonderful party anyway.
Gene and I came together during a highly volatile period for our country. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, people were signing up for military service in droves. This marked a huge turnaround in public sentiment within a year. Many of us in the Harvard class of 1940 had taken Government A with Professor Holcomb during our freshman year (1936-1937). I remember Holcomb saying, "Look to your left, boys; look to your right. One of the three of you won't be here when you graduate." He was right. We graduated two-thirds of those who started. He also said, "Get out those brass buttons and shine them up. You're all going to be in the military before you know it." This was met with almost universal disbelief. It didn't bother any of us as much as the thought that we might not graduate.
Even after Hitler began storming across Europe, the feeling on campus was: "We're not going to get involved in this mess." At our graduation ceremonies in June 1940, a graduate from the class of 1915 talked about World War I-how his generation had done its share and how it now was up to our generation to do its share. We shouted back, "You're not going to see us going over there and getting killed!"
During the summer of 1940, before graduate school, I asked Dr.  White, my cardiologist, whether he thought I could go into the Navy. "Well," he said, "it wouldn't hurt to try." So I went around to see if I could enter the Navy's V-7 program for college graduates. I didn't pass the physical. Curiously enough, my rejection had nothing to do with my recent rheumatic fever. I got tripped up on the color-blind test. I couldn't believe it. "I'm not color-blind," I said.
The doctor said, "According to these charts you are."
I got my parents to arrange an appointment with an eye doctor, Dr. Dunphy. I told him my sad story, and he tested me. "You are color-blind," he said. So I did not have the chance to enlist.
Later on, everybody who could walk a straight line was drafted, but by then I was an instructor and involved with classified work for the armed services. MIT rank-ordered all employees of draft age, according to who was needed most to help with the war effort. The Selective Service used this to determine who would be more valuable out of uniform. MIT had me in the top echelon of those who were of draft age. As a result, I was never drafted. Later in the war, when I got to know an Air Force colonel while working on a gunsight for fighter aircraft, I explored with him the possibility of getting into the Air Force. "No," he said, "you're doing more good staying at MIT."
It was not an easy time. My brother Peter and my brother-in-law Caleb Loring were in the Navy. My cousin Jim Seamans transferred from Harvard to Annapolis, where he graduated in January 1942. Two weeks after graduation he was aboard the destroyer Truxton when it rammed into rocks off Newfoundland. He was one of two officers who survived. Covered with diesel fuel, he swam for shore in a blinding blizzard and high seas. As he got near land, he heard somebody say, "I'll be right there, Bud," and then he blacked out. He woke up in somebody's farmhouse with frostbitten feet and hands.
The impact of the war was everywhere, and we were inundated with thousands of such stories. In March 1942, after my engagement to Gene had been formally announced in Washington, my college roommate Strat Christensen rode back north with me on the train as far as Philadelphia. I went on to Boston. By the time of our June wedding, Strat's ship had been sunk by a German submarine, leaving only two survivors. I would have preferred to serve in the military; however, I had the satisfaction of performing several jobs for the armed services- developing equipment and installing it on an aircraft carrier when under way, and flying with the Air Force to help test fire-control equipment.
Mother was terribly afraid that I was going to be late for my wedding at St. John's Episcopal Church in Beverly Farms on June 13, 1942. "You know, that Beverly bridge is oftentimes open. Supposing you get there and you can't cross the bridge?" She insisted that my brother and I leave our house in Marblehead two hours before the service. When we reached the church, we had to kill an hour and a half. Fortunately the minister, who knew my field was aeronautics, got me going on how a propeller drives an airplane. Otherwise, it would have been a long wait.
My brother Peter was my best man. Donny was one of my ushers. I had prescribed cutaways for my ushers. Mother thought that Donny, fifteen years old and pretty big, ought to go to the wedding in an Eaton collar and shorts. He announced that under no circumstances would he appear at the wedding dressed in that fashion! He was either going to be an usher in a cutaway, or he wasn't going. My other ushers were Keith Merrill, Caleb Loring, my cousin Jim Seamans, my old Tower School classmate (and the future author of such plays as Billy Budd) Louis Coxe, and my two bicycling companions, David Ives and Johnny Brooks.
The church held just so many people. The decisions about who would sit in which pew were hotly debated. About ten members of the Avalon staff were jammed into the back row. At the very last minute, to everyone's surprise and delight, Gene's godfather, Admiral Emory Land, unexpectedly announced that he and his wife, Betty, could make it. That threw off the whole seating arrangement until it was decided to put an additional row of chairs in front of the first pew.
The church was jammed on one of the hottest days on record. Two ministers performed the ceremony-the Reverend Frederick Morris from our church in Salem and the minister at St. John's, the Reverend Bradford Burnham. I remember seeing Jim Seamans in his Navy uniform, looking white as a sheet. He was apparently still recovering from the lively bachelor's party several nights before. I thought he was going to faint. About the only other thing I remember of the service was feeling very, very pleased as Gene and I left the church and walked outside.
 The reception at Avalon was a great affair and a wonderful family gathering. There were two rooms on the second floor filled with beautiful wedding gifts. Mrs. Merrill's elderly friend Mrs. Linthicum from Baltimore was covered with more jewels than I had ever seen. She asked Gene to select any of her jewels as a wedding gift. Gene found that somewhat embarrassing but finally chose a diamond-and-emerald lizard. Mrs. Linthicum promised to send it, but nothing was ever delivered!
I had arranged for Gene and me to stay at the Hart House, an old country inn outside Ipswich. After driving there together in a getaway car we had carefully hidden from pranksters, I set about doing what I felt I had to do: carry my bride across the threshold. But the front doorway of the Hart House was very narrow, and the granite steps leading up to it were steep. Mr. Eades, the manager, held the door open for me, but I failed to maneuver Gene and myself through the door. So he invited us to use the back door. "That will be just fine," I said. What he didn't tell me was that the back door opened directly into a screened porch filled with diners, who were surprised and delighted to watch a bride and groom perform for them.
We stayed at the Hart House for a couple of days, then went directly to the North Station in Boston, where we boarded a train for Lodge Grass, Montana. We spent a week with Nan Bosson Duell, my first cousin, and her husband, Wally, at their ranch on the Crow reservation. Then we headed for Pasadena. We spent a night in Butte, Montana, waiting for our train connection to California. We were on the platform in a small crowd of people at six o'clock the following morning when a man staggered over to us and said loudly, "I think we've got some newlyweds here! How long have you been married?" We had been married exactly one week.
We were met at the Los Angeles station at 7 a.m. by about thirty of Gene's cousins, curious to meet the groom and brimming with warm enthusiasm. That summer they included us in many happy events. After purchasing a temperamental 1936 Dodge coupe, we were able to explore that area of California. We spent several days in Indio with Gene's aunt, Bea Patton. In the 110-degree heat, she provided a retreat for her husband, the general, who had established the Desert Training Center nearby in order to condition thousands of troops for the impending North African invasion. We rode in a tank, and Gene  heard the general-in true blood-and-guts style-make an awesome speech to the troops under a broiling sun.
For the duration of our stay in southern California, some of Gene's elder relatives loaned us their beautiful Spanish villa in Pasadena. Its courtyard was filled with blooming gardenias. While Gene got us settled in our new surroundings, I took on an interesting job with United Geophysical, a company owned by Herbert Hoover, Jr., son of the former President. United had bought from Sperry Corporation the rights to the vibration pickups I had been working on in the Instrumentation Laboratory. The company had been using equipment similar to Sperry's to explore for oil; now it was getting into flight instrumentation by forming a new company (eventually spun off) called Consolidated Engineering. I spent my summer helping Consolidated get established.
When Gene and I returned from the west coast in September, I worked for about a year with Walter McKay, a professor in instrumentation. Our project was to help determine why some Navy aircraft were falling apart or going out of control when they went into or pulled out of high-speed dives. We worked on developing instruments to be mounted in a test plane. We carefully calibrated the air-speed meter and the altimeter, and we developed a couple of new instruments to measure angular acceleration. Obviously, we couldn't ask a test pilot to go up and "just keep her going, though, of course, she might fall apart." So we planned to fly the test plane by remote control, a novel thing itself in those days. There was no telemetry for sending data back by microwave from an unmanned test plane; so we mounted a high-speed movie camera in the cockpit, then hoped to recover the plane and the film after the flight to determine what was going on. If the experiment failed, at least we wouldn't have killed anybody. After twelve months of work, the instruments were finally built and put aboard an F-6F at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Under remote control, the aircraft staggered up to an altitude of 30,000 feet and started its dive. All the electronics went immediately haywire. The only observation we got out of the whole effort was that when the plane hit the water, it was going very fast.
 The experiment was never repeated, largely because Walter and I were already at work on a new project, the A-1 bomb gunsight. We worked under contract with the armament laboratory at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. The gunsight was for use in air-to-air combat and air-to-ground strafing. Its purpose was to provide optical information to a fighter pilot so that he could properly lead his target and shoot it down.
Our project officer was Colonel Leighton "Lee" Davis, a key figure in the history of the Instrumentation Laboratory. Lee wanted to move the program fast. In a matter of four or five months, we had put together an experimental gunsight and its electronics. Once the military started installing the equipment in a P-38 and an A-26, we tested it in various locations, including Eglin Field in Florida. To get there, we took Lee's C-45, a twin-engine Beechcraft. He used to let me fly the plane while he went back and worked in the cabin. I did not have a pilot's license; nevertheless, he taught me a bit of maneuvering so that I could go around clouds to avoid passing through them without radar. Once he came out of the cabin and said, "Maybe you don't need to be quite so strenuous with the controls!" On another occasion, I was flying along when suddenly all of the bells and whistles in the cockpit went off at once. Lee came tearing out of the cabin and jumped into the pilot's seat. One fuel tank had run dry and the engines had shut down. Fortunately he was able to transfer to a second tank and restart the engines.
When we arrived at our destination and the equipment was tried out by test pilots, I often went along for the ride. Some pilots, just back from the Pacific, loved to fly at an altitude of about twenty-five feet. I watched with alarm to see whether the tips of our propeller were going to hit the ground, as we made our dives and passes, firing five-inch rockets.
Lee Davis's career and mine ran roughly in parallel. Later, when I was working on the Tracking Control Project, he was the chief of the armament laboratory at Wright Field, where our work was put to the test. Later still, he was the Air Force's number-one man at Cape Canaveral when I was working in the space program at NASA.
While working on these various wartime contracts, I was also teaching in the Navy's V-7 program at MIT, the same program I had wanted to enter. Officers-in-training were with us for three months, hence their nickname "ninety-day wonders." The instrumentation class, which I taught, was five days a week for six weeks. I taught that  course for thirteen consecutive six-week sessions. I would finish one section on a Friday and start the next group the following Monday.
The first time I taught the course, I was probably the youngest person in the room. There were some smart alecks from industry in the back row, who tried to ask me impossible questions, but I learned very early how to deal with them. I would announce to the class that we were very fortunate to have Mr. So-and-so from the XYZ Corporation with us. I then invited him to give one of the lectures. I found that shut him up quickly.
In late 1944 the Navy called Doc Draper with a so-called target acquisition problem. Japanese kamikazes were making it especially difficult for our Navy gunners by attacking with the Sun behind them. A gunner couldn't look up into the blinding Pacific sun and "acquire his target" (see a kamikaze long enough to get it lined up in his gunsight). Radar operated out of the CIC (command-in-control room) could pick up any incoming plane or missile, but how to translate this radar information to the gunner stationed at a gun mount next to the flight deck? I went with Doc Draper down to Sperry Corporation on Long Island and watched in awe as Doc stood before a blackboard and developed extemporaneously a system to solve the problem.
It was my job to flesh out the design for this equipment, get it built, draw a wiring diagram, and be down at the Navy yard in Bayonne, New Jersey, to go aboard the Bonhomme Richard in three weeks, starting from scratch! Just getting to Bayonne, New Jersey, loaded with equipment was hard enough in those days, because wartime travel restrictions made it almost impossible to fly anywhere, and taking the train involved connections, subways, taxis-while lugging the equipment all the time. I finally got myself a Hertz rental car, packed up, and set off.
When I reached Bayonne, no one would let me in the Navy yard at first. I finally talked my way in and went aboard the ship. After explaining my mission, I was steered to the gunnery officer. When I finally got to see him, he said under no circumstances was anybody going to touch anything on that ship! There were green tickets on  everything, meaning that the ship had been fully checked out and was ready to sail. He didn't want me messing with anything.
I got to a phone booth and called Doc Draper. The next day Admiral Martel from the Bureau of Ordnance arrived at the Navy yard. I was told to bring the equipment aboard. Before I could get it installed, we set sail. Within hours, I found myself working on an open deck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter. I had only one copy of my wiring diagram, drawn on a huge piece of tracing paper. If it had ever blown overboard, I would have been in deep trouble. To tie the system in with the ship's compass, I patched into a junction box just over the captain's bunk and learned he was upset. When tying into the ship's radar, I opened up other junction boxes and made my connections. I came back an hour later to find that the technician from Western Electric, the company that had installed the radar, had disconnected all my wires.
About three days later in the Caribbean, Admiral Martel and some other brass came out to see how the equipment operated. Everybody seemed to be pretty pleased, and I was cleared to go ashore. The ship anchored off Norfolk, Virginia, and I clambered down a rope ladder on the side of the ship and into a small boat, clutching my oscilloscopes and other test equipment. When I finally got to a phone to call Doc Draper and tell him what had happened, his first words were: "Damn it, can you tell me where that Hertz car is? We're paying through the nose and they want it back!" The car, of course, was still parked at the Navy Yard in Bayonne, New Jersey, where I had boarded the Bonhomme Richard.
I traveled back to MIT by way of the Bureau of Ordnance, where I delivered a copy of my wiring diagram. On my return to Cambridge, Doc said, "There's a destroyer about to set sail from the Charlestown Navy Yard. They're having some trouble with the radar. Get over there and help them out." So I worked on the equipment in Charlestown for a couple of days, then went back out to sea aboard the SS Purdy. After several very cold days, I was finally ashore and the Purdy was headed for the Pacific, where it shot down a good many kamikazes before being sunk.
After the war, I became involved with another project sponsored by Lee Davis. In preliminary discussions, he told Doc Draper and myself that he wanted to develop an improved sight to be tied in with tracking radar, which was just coming into its own. The question was, once a pilot had acquired a target and locked on, under what conditions could a plane be made to maneuver automatically to track the target until the target had been fired on and destroyed? To solve this problem it was clearly necessary to study the dynamics of the pursuing airplane itself. Did existing planes have enough maneuverability to follow the evasive action of the pursued plane?
Every project at MIT had to be cleared through Nat Sage, the director of research. He, Doc, and I discussed it around the table, and Nat Sage finally said, "Put it in a letter to me." That night I wrote a two-page letter. The following day I showed it to Doc and took it over to Nat. That letter became the basis for the Air Force contract I headed for the next four years. It became known as the Tracking Control Project. It was the largest project I had headed to date. I had about thirty-five or forty full-time people working on it, as well as nearly one hundred master's and doctoral candidates assisting in the research.
There were many parts to the problem. For one, we had to study how quickly the plane reacted to movements of its stick. For another, we had to run the same kinds of tests on the servo-activators that transformed electrical signals into movements of the elevator, rudder, and ailerons. Then we did the same with radar, to see how well existing equipment could follow a target. We built our own simulator (electronic analog computer) and some of the flight hardware out of whole cloth. A number of disciplines were involved in creating and testing the system. Simultaneously with this project, I was starting a graduate program in the automatic control of aircraft. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun.
Eventually we had a complete system, which, when installed in a plane, could lock onto and follow an acquired target. Three or four hundred people were invited to Wright Field for the first large-scale demonstration. They were invited first into an amphitheater where I, together with others who worked with me, explained the system. Then everybody went outside and looked up as the target plane came overhead and our  tracking plane locked on and followed. I hardly dared look, because we had been under considerable pressure to rush the job and hadn't tested it many times prior to this demonstration. It worked, though it seemed to me, as I was watching, that the pursuing plane broke lock momentarily and that the pilot took over manually until the system relocked. I never dared ask Chip Collins, our test pilot, if that is what had happened.
As a result of our team's work on tracking control-for developing what was termed a "dynamical model" of an airplane-I received the Elmer Sperry Award, given in memory of a Sperry family member to a young engineer for outstanding contribution to the field of aeronautics. I used the stipend that came with the award to buy pewter mugs and to have them inscribed for the key people who had worked with me on the project.
Middleton in the 1940s was nearly open land located between Boston and Andover. For the Seamans family, Middleton provided an opportunity for country living as we moved from Cambridge in 1948 and, three years later, to our permanent future home on the seacoast in Beverly Farms. Kathy, Toby, and Joe were born during our days in Cambridge; May and Dan arrived after we settled in Beverly Farms.
In the spring of 1945, Gene was six months' pregnant and fell while carrying Kathy downstairs. Two days later she began to have contractions, and I rushed her to the hospital. The doctor assured us she would be all right. "But she's going to lose the baby," he added. On questioning he advised us there wasn't one chance in 10,000 the baby could survive. About two o'clock in the morning on May 22, 1945, a whole group of us were sitting in the waiting room at the Phillips House at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Titus trundled in and said, "Mrs. Seamans is just fine."
After a silence, Gene's mother asked, "And the baby?"
"A very well-formed little boy," Dr. Titus answered. But Toby was three months premature, almost insurmountable odds in those days. We had already tipped off our pediatrician, Dr. Joseph Garland, and he had been boning up on what to do with extremely premature infants. Within a couple of hours, he was attending our son. Toby  weighed three pounds, three ounces, and was twelve inches long. He had no eyebrows, no fingernails, and no toenails, and his head was about the size of a small orange. The nurses had to rotate him regularly, because his head was so soft that it would flatten if left in one position. They had to be terribly clever to feed him. A tiny rubber tube attached to a test tube of milk was moistened and inserted straight down his esophagus into his stomach-carefully, of course, so that it did not enter his lungs instead. The milk was then poured in, and the tube was pulled out. The whole operation happened in a matter of seconds.
I asked Dr. Garland for his prognosis. "I think you've got one chance in ten. It depends on a couple of things," he added. "Obviously a lot of it is physical-how strong his constitution is. But even if he's the strongest baby in the world, an upset stomach could tip the scales, because he has so little margin. Still, what really matters is his will to live." It was hard for me to believe that this tiny being in a bassinet could have a will to live, but Dr. Garland evidently believed it, and now I do as well. Two months later Toby left the hospital weighing just over five pounds. At age three he was a healthy, cheery child, but he had no speech. We were told by a specialist that he'd never seen a deafer child and he would never talk.
A long crusade followed with Gene in the lead. Thanks to Helen Patten and the Winthrop Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Clinic, his speech is remarkably good. He has a bachelor's degree from Columbia and an MBA from Northeastern.
Toby and Stella Mae Renchard were married on December 27, 1969, before his graduation from Columbia. The small wedding was held in the Chapel of Apostolic Delegation in Washington, D.C., with Helen Patten and immediate family in attendance. The Papal Nuncio officiated.
Afterwards at the home of the bride, we were welcomed to a spiffy dinner by her parents, George and Stella Renchard. With a long, distinguished career in the State Department, Ambassador Renchard had known Gene's father early in the 1930s. He had just ended his last tour of duty as U.S. ambassador to Burundi.
Toby's situation, as it developed through the late 1940s and 1950s, was extremely important to Gene and myself, and it influenced various career decisions I was faced with along the way. There were jobs I turned down (happily, in retrospect) because we didn't want to slow  Toby's progress by taking him away from Helen Patten. His success has been an inspiration for the whole family. Toby is a most perceptive stock analyst. He and Stella Mae have five children, and they live near us in Beverly Farms.
We moved to Middleton shortly after Joe was born. We had been forever trying to get to the country on weekends, and we finally said, "Let's be there all week!" We looked casually at places in Beverly and Marblehead before my distant uncle, John Pickering, told us we could rent his wonderful old farmhouse.
None of our friends could understand why we would want to live that far out in the country. Conditions were a bit rustic. We had to rely on an old stone well for water. Once, we had invited a number of our friends out to the house after a Harvard-Princeton game. Two days before the game the well had gone dry. The only way to get water was to bring it back in buckets from a hydrant about a mile away. All during the evening, men could be seen heading outside and behind the trees.
We lived in the country at a perfect time, when our older children were young and could enjoy the fifty acres at our disposal. There was a pond across the street where we enjoyed wonderful skating in the wintertime. Our daughter Kathy, who was very independent, became an outdoor enthusiast and prolific reader. One day, in a fit of exasperation, she took off on her tricycle, unbeknownst to us, and headed down the country road. More than halfway to Middleton center, she met a policeman who asked where she was going. "To town," she responded. She was brought home crestfallen. Toby, still struggling with speech, cheerfully enjoyed our livestock of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. He and his sister were delighted to discover that at the soda fountain in Middleton, customers had stuck their chewing gum under the counter. At ages three and five, respectively, they saw it as a free source of candy! Meanwhile Joe, still a toddler, developed his ability to keep up and fit in.
Gene loved the country, while barely catching her breath the whole time. For more than five years, summers were spent at Avalon, the Merrills' lovely place at Prides Crossing. All the grandchildren convened there to enjoy seaside activities, each other, and their grandparents, who did an amazing job of running a household of over twenty people and providing wonderful meals from the large vegetable garden.
 It was in Middleton that I did most of my doctoral work. Dr. Jerome Hunsaker, chairman of MIT's aeronautics department, came to me in 1948 and said, "Look, you're going up this track pretty fast. Pretty soon it will be unreasonable for you to go after your doctor's degree. So if you're really interested in getting a doctorate, you had better get going."
Gene and I had quite a discussion about this because we realized what it would mean to our family life. My friend John Sluder was instrumental in my final decision to go ahead with the doctoral program. His wife, Betsy (Bradley), was a great friend of Romey's. John, who had his Ph.D. from MIT, was eleven years older than I and was a great role model for me.
I told John what Hunsaker had said. His response was, "You've got to go for it."
"You think you're always going to want to stay at MIT. If that were true, you wouldn't need it. You're already in the chain of promotion, and you'll work your way up, no doubt about it. But what if you want to leave MIT some day?"
Gene and I agreed that I shouldn't take off three years from work to concentrate on my studies, but that I should continue teaching (the course on automatic control of aircraft for about forty graduate students) and managing the Tracking Control Project. On top of which, I was advisor on about two dozen master's theses during the three-year period. Furthermore, I was just starting to get involved in a little outside work with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In short, I was quite busy.
My field was instrumentation, a multidisciplinary study program overseen by the heads of the departments of physics, math, electrical engineering, and aeronautics (of which Doc Draper was about to become the head). I had to satisfy the requirements of each department. I also had to take a minor, for which I chose mathematics. Finally, I had to study two foreign languages. I had the French, but I had to start from scratch with German.
So there I was on a typical Saturday at our old farmhouse, wrestling with equations, when our three kids came rushing in asking me to go out and play. Although I wanted to play with them, it often  took me a half-hour to get my train of thought back to where it had been before the interruption. Finally, Gene made a big sign for our bedroom door. It read: "Daddy is working. Please be quiet." From then on I often sat at my desk in our room and heard the kids running up and down outside-Kathy, the eldest, followed by Toby pulling Joe. They would arrive at the door, and Kathy, in a loud, very high-pitched voice, would say, "Daddy is working. Please be quiet!" That only took me about five minutes to recover from. When I finally got my degree in 1951, we made a big ceremony of taking that sign out and burning it.
My oral exam, which followed the written ones, was almost a disaster. I had five examiners, the heads of the five departments overseeing my doctoral work. The head of the physics department was a meticulous professor named Sears, who expected precise answers. I had had an acknowledged deficiency in physics when I first came to MIT to do graduate work. The physics department had felt that the Harvard physics program wasn't up to snuff, and I had taken MIT's freshman course. I was able to score 100s in all the exams and successfully petitioned the department not to have to take the sophomore course.
Now here I was in the oral exam; Professor Sears was asking me questions, and that sophomore course would have helped! One question I was completely unprepared for was: "Name five or six physical constants and indicate how they can be measured." The only one I could think of was the gravitational constant, and nobody had ever told me how it's measured. I guessed and got it right. Sears said, "All you engineers come up with that one first, but now I would like to have you name five more." I could not name one. I thought, "Boy, that's it! It's curtains for Seamans and his doctorate!" Fortunately, I did well enough on balance with the other faculty members present that I was allowed to pass.
My thesis, which was then classified, was a further development of the work we had started with the Tracking Control Project. It compared several methods for an interceptor airplane to track a target.
Of all the people who have had an influence on the way I've thought, apart from my family, Doc Draper is preeminent. From 1940 to 1950  I worked for him, first as a student, then as a colleague in the Instrumentation Laboratory (which was subsequently renamed the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in his honor and was divested from MIT in 1973). Doc Draper was not only tops in the field of instrumentation, he was a remarkable role model. Doc was not a person who liked sitting at a desk all day. He used to love to run his laboratory, working night and day himself. I've never seen such a prodigious worker. He would take people out to dinner at a place called the Fox and Hounds, have a reasonable number of martinis and a dinner, then come back to the office and continue working until two or three in the morning. First thing in the morning, he was on the job when everybody else arrived for work. I don't know how he had the energy to do it. He worked Saturdays and Sundays throughout his whole career.
He was extremely practical. His approach was always to figure out where the critical elements of a problem were and then to place his and the laboratory's emphasis there. He deeply believed that theory and practice must always be kept in balance. You can't proceed only by trial and error, nor can you get results by merely theorizing. It's a constant back-and-forth between the two that solves problems.
Doc had plenty of ingenuity. When he was working on his first gunsight, the Mark 14, the Navy told Doc that he had to demonstrate that it was producible. He tried to get various companies to manufacture it but couldn't find anybody to take it on. Finally he located a machine shop in Newton owned by Fred MacLoed and John Sattlemeyer, and gave them the task of building fifty complete gyroscopes. The machine shop didn't have a name, so Doc said, "We'll call it Doelcam," which is almost MacLoed spelled backwards.
John Sattlemeyer was a straight, thoughtful man and a very good machinist. Fred MacLoed was expansive and more the entrepreneur. They made their fifty gyroscopes and got a big contract out of it. The two men eventually became multimillionaires. Sattlemeyer never changed his straight and simple lifestyle. Fred MacLoed left a wife and seven or eight children for other women and race cars.
Doc Draper went through periods when he was very, very difficult to work with-whenever he was working on a problem in the back of his mind. At these times, he would become very impatient with the day-to-day administration he had to oversee. Nat Sage would say,  "I can always tell when Doc's going to hatch a new one. He becomes ornery!" Yet, when it came to management, Doc did the things that were absolutely essential, and he did them right. Even when he was embroiled in a problem, he showed great day-to-day concern for the people who worked with him. All of them. It didn't matter who they were. If somebody had a key job on a milling machine, Doc would learn his first name and visit with him at his bench. He held open houses at his home and invited hundreds of staff and students at a time, from all levels of the laboratory and department.
There are so many wonderful stories about Doc. Whenever he explained a project to a group of laymen (military procurement people, executives from industry, and so on), he did so in simple terms, but he always threw in at least one very complicated chart. This way, even though people understood most of what he was talking about, they never knew everything. He wanted them to realize it wasn't easy! He did this quite intentionally. Once when he was up in front of a group explaining a target-acquisition problem, he drew a very complicated diagram of lines and boxes representing servos and computer. Suddenly I wasn't sure that even he himself knew exactly how to build the system!
Doc and I once spent a month together at a naval anti-aircraft test facility near Virginia Beach. We stayed at a place on the beach called the Gay Manor. We called it the Gay Manure, a better description of the food, we thought. We slept in twin beds in the same room. At night, Doc liked to read paperback science fiction. "One thing you never want to do," he would say, looking over at me, "is bring along a very good book on a job like this, because you'll tend to read it and stay awake too long, then be tired the next day. You need a book that's so bad you'll fall asleep on the third page." Sure enough, he started reading, and before long he had conked out with the book on his chest. The next morning we would be up at six o'clock, have a quick breakfast, tear out to the firing range, work there all day, be back in the evening, and have drinks and dinner with our associates.
Sometimes when visitors came to the laboratory, Doc would say, "You know, we make it a rule here that we've got to keep things moving along until 5:30. No cocktails or anything until then." What the visitors didn't realize was that Doc had underneath his desk a button with which he could control the speed of the clock. So if they arrived  at, say, 4:30, they might find that after fifteen minutes it was 5:30 by Doc's clock. "Marie!," Doc would yell to his secretary. "Come in and take the drink order." He loved to play this game.
As with any mentor, I learned innumerable things from Doc Draper. But there were things I could never learn until I had left the shelter of his wing, which I did in 1950. It was only then that I began to learn how to coordinate the work of large numbers of people grouped in different disciplines. I had to learn the hard way by making mistakes, some of them bad mistakes. Fortunately I got this experience at MIT, because such an understanding would be absolutely essential to success at NASA.
In 1950, I was approached by Doc about becoming systems engineer on Project Meteor, an effort to assimilate Germany's experience with the V-2 rocket and build rockets of our own. It was known throughout the world that the United States was ahead in many areas of technology. But we were behind in missiles, compared to what the Germans had accomplished during World War II. Project Meteor had been initiated at MIT by the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance right after the war. It had initially been viewed as an effort to look at the new technologies in missilery, thus far unknown to the United States.
Six or seven departments at MIT got involved, with each working on a particular set of technologies. The servo lab people designed and built new hydraulic, high-performance actuators, and the propulsion people looked into new kinds of rocket propellants. A wind tunnel was built requiring so much energy, it couldn't be turned on without calling the electric company and asking when they would have enough power to run it. To keep it cool, so much water had to be pumped in and out that there was reason to worry about erosion of the banks of the Charles River.
After three or four years, the Navy turned around and said, "This is great work you're doing, but where's the missile?" It was with a view to pulling together all these strands of work that I was installed as systems engineer. Why me? In part, I think, because of what I had been doing on the Tracking Control Project-another case of trying to build a total system out of disparate parts. Project Meteor was a difficult  task. I recognized that my hold over the contributors from each of the departments at MIT was a lot more ephemeral than what I had grown used to while working in the Instrumentation Lab, and I didn't always handle this situation with great finesse.
I decided that I had to have a central systems group that could spell out what each department was supposed to be working on. I needed specific expertise in this central group that understood what all the individual groups were doing. I had in mind transferring several people from their respective departments. Some of the departments were reluctant to give up staff, and I got pretty upset. I thought that if I was going to take on this responsibility on behalf of the institute, people ought to be more forthcoming. I had a meeting with the heads of all involved departments in president James Killian's office and mentioned the name of someone I wanted transferred. Someone asked, "Well, supposing he doesn't want to come and work for you?"
I said, "I think it's time we got a little discipline in this place." The whole meeting exploded. Clearly, that had been the wrong answer. I was violating the principle of academic freedom! I should have said, "Would you mind my exploring the possibility with him?" We finally managed to extract some people from the various departments and hired some others, putting together a nucleus of about seventy-five people, which I felt we needed to develop a missile.
In time, the Eisenhower administration became concerned that America was falling behind the Russians in missilery. K. T. Keller, who had run Chrysler, was made "missile czar." He came up to MIT to assess the status of the Meteor missile and was joined there by people from the Navy, as well as associated contractors like Bell Aircraft. By then we had built some experimental dummies and had fired them, but they weren't missiles. We didn't have a missile. The result of the meeting was that the Navy decided Bell Aircraft would begin building an air-to-air missile that didn't yet exist!
The situation became complicated. Bell Aircraft was eager to mass-produce missiles. The Vitro Corporation was brought in to test the missiles and other equipment and to train Navy personnel in their use. Meanwhile, we were in the middle, a bunch of research laboratories at MIT technically responsible for the outcome of the program. The whole project grew to a tremendous size before we even knew  what we wanted to build. I had some serious arguments at Bell Aircraft involving Larry Bell and naval personnel. I felt that the project had quickly gotten out of hand, and I got a reputation as something of an enfant terrible for trying to rein it in. Unfortunately, Doc Draper was not directly involved, and the program lacked a real godfather. It had focus in each department, but there was no central authority figure, like a Doc Draper, to get the Navy and the contractors to cease and desist until we had a prototype design.
In the end, the design people at Bell built what I called an "inside-the-egg missile." You couldn't get at any part of the missile without moving five other parts. You couldn't take out the servo package or the gyro package and work on that alone.
The first test of our air-to-air missile took place on the west coast. The plan was to fire the missile from beneath the wing of an airplane. Afterwards, I got a call from the man in charge of the testing. "It's gone," he said.
"What do you mean, it's gone?"
"The missile's gone." As the plane carrying the missile came in towards the shore, our engineer, who was sitting in the plane, looked out and saw that the missile was gone. It had been released inadvertently. The Navy sent groups of seamen walking over bean fields where the missile was thought to have come down. They stumbled onto a huge hole in the ground. The area was classified, and some heavy excavation equipment was brought out. Fifteen feet down, there was our Meteor missile-and not in very good shape.
Subsequent tests were successful, but it was not long after this that I got a call from Nat Sage, who said, "We've been torpedoed in the engine room. Project Meteor is canceled." The Bureau of Ordnance had given us three months to stop all work. The next day Nat and I went down to Washington to see what we could salvage. All we could get was $50,000 that had already been budgeted for Meteor, in order to write a final report.
On its face, Project Meteor was a failure. We did not provide a missile for the Navy. We did launch the Meteor from beneath the wing of an airplane a number of times, but by the time of cancellation the missile still had not homed on a target. When we came to the very last day of the project, still without success, I gave orders to the people at the test  field to close up shop. The next day I got a call from the group leader, Bob Briggs. He was ecstatic. "It worked! It worked!," he shouted. This successful test failed to save Project Meteor, but at least it provided some psychic rewards for the people involved, and it made our final report both more positive and more useful to ongoing missile research.
Our efforts were not completely wasted. The Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins, which continued working on ship-to-air missiles, was able to put some of our thinking to good use. Furthermore, we approached the Air Force about picking up our end of the project, and though they didn't do so, they used bits and pieces of our technology. The anti-radiation missiles in use by the Air Force today employ some of the system thinking we were working on at MIT in the early 1950s.
At MIT, the groups that had been getting money from the Navy under Project Meteor had to go their own ways, each figuring out whether it was going to retrench or not. My systems-engineering group had come together for the sole purpose of working on Meteor and had no departmental affiliation. So I began looking to see what other kinds of projects might be appropriate for this group. In pretty short order, we picked up three new contracts. With these in hand, we called ourselves the Flight Control Laboratory.
We proceeded with our contracts for about eight months, or until the summer of 1954. The administration of MIT withheld full approval for the Flight Control Laboratory on a permanent basis, and when Gene and I left for a summer cruise off the coast of Maine, I knew that Nat Sage and Doc Draper were talking with James R. Killian about the future of the Flight Control Lab. One night Donny, Bev, Gene, and I were anchored in Pulpit Harbor in pouring rain when somebody came alongside and said, "Is Seamans aboard?" It was Dave Wheatland, a friend of my parents. He told me that Doc Draper was trying to get me on the phone, then took me to his farmhouse on North Haven, where I placed a fateful call.
"We did the best we could," Doc told me, "but it's all over. You've got to close down the Flight Control Laboratory." We were given until the following June to wrap things up, so that we could complete the  various studies for which we had contracted. While this situation was still fluid, I had a call from John Woodward at RCA, who explained that his company had an engineering development program in Camden, New Jersey. Would I be interested in helping them run it? I had been asked to consider leaving MIT before, but none of the opportunities offered had been acceptable to Gene and me. The RCA situation was close enough to my expertise that I couldn't reject the offer outright, so I said to Woodward, "I can't answer that on the phone."
"Then come on down to Camden and see what's involved," he responded. We set an appointment.
Camden was a typical industrial city of that era. Approaching it from Philadelphia, which I knew as an attractive city, I crossed a bridge and felt as though I were plunging back into the Industrial Revolution. Camden had a lot of brick buildings, including quite a few owned by RCA. Campbell's Soup was located there as well. The whole city seemed to smell of soup.
I visited RCA's corporate headquarters. John Woodward introduced me to Ted Smith, the executive vice president in charge of defense products. I was offered a salary ($15,000) that was more than I was making at MIT ($10,000)-not a bad offer, but not overwhelming either. I took a look at the surroundings and couldn't see the Seamans family living there. Nor could I see myself immersed in what was clearly a large organization and trying to mold something within that environment. Whenever a decision like this came along, I never said yea or nay until I returned home and talked with Gene. This was not a difficult decision for the two of us. I called Ted Smith a day or two later and said, "No, thank you."
About a week later a very excited John Woodward called me on the phone and said, "We've been thinking this over. We know that you've got people in your laboratory that you've been working with. What would you think of starting an RCA laboratory in the Boston area with some of these people?" That was a different proposition in many, many ways. It satisfied several of my concerns, including what to do with the people working with me, not to mention what to do with myself! I couldn't see full-time teaching, in part because I continued to believe that teaching, lab work, and thesis work were all of the same cloth and enhanced each other. The long and short of it was, I took the job after negotiating a salary of $18,000.
 With a lot of hoopla, RCA kicked off their new laboratory in December 1954 with a big reception at the Hotel Statler in Boston.
Up from RCA New York for the occasion was Elmer Engstrom, a fine person in charge of engineering throughout the corporation. The laboratory was introduced with much fanfare-with a presentation of the imaginative new program the company was embarking on and an introduction of the young man who was willing to step in and take charge of it. (I didn't think of myself as a young man at all.) They even brought in a robot to liven things up. It came rolling in through the door, went up to the podium, and handed a message to Engstrom.
The next six months were hectic. I oversaw the start-up of RCA's Airborne Systems Laboratory, while also phasing out the Flight Control Laboratory and teaching a full load at MIT. First we had to figure out where to locate the lab. It was decided to take over a big section of the old Waltham Watch Company building, which was in pretty rough shape when we took occupancy. The lavatories were the crummiest I had ever seen, with signs on the doors reading: "Your Management Takes Pride in the Facilities It Provides Its Employees." In time, RCA did a nice job rehabilitating the building.
Then we had to go out and recruit the people to fill the lab. RCA was doubtful that we could fill all the slots. We needed to find thirty people a month for three months to get started. I said I was sure we could do so. At MIT, I had worked extensively with Joseph Aronson, who had been the U.S. Air Force Air Materiel Command representative there and then had been an assistant director in the Instrumentation Laboratory. He was one of the first people I hired, and he oversaw much of the recruiting while I was still completing my assignments at MIT. About half of the employees of the Flight Control Laboratory ended up coming along with us. We recruited locally for most of the rest.
Once things were moving in the laboratory, the company threw another big reception. We had an open house and a dinner, at which I was introduced. State government officials were present. Dick Preston was on hand, as secretary of commerce and a representative of the governor. He had great wit and made a hit when he spoke. After dinner, big color-TV sets were brought in, and we all watched a color broadcast of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin. The RCA system for color TV had recently been accepted over that of CBS, and the company was actively promoting its system.
In the early 1950s, the Hughes Aircraft Company had a monopoly on fighter-aircraft fire control-the whole system for aiming a fighter's guns and rockets. As the only game in town, Hughes could hold the Air Force up for ransom. Well before I arrived on the scene, RCA had received a contract to serve as a second production source for Hughes equipment. That contract allowed RCA, if the company wished, to use some of the overhead costs to improve on Hughes's system. By the time John Woodward and Ted Smith proposed that I set up a new lab, the Air Force had been putting pressure on RCA to come up with something more imaginative, a more advanced technology. That became the primary mission of our lab. Our contract number was 28007. That became our identity. Whenever someone at RCA asked what we were doing, the answer was: "We're working on twenty-eight double-oh seven."
Eventually we got some other contracts, and we began outgrowing the Waltham Watch building, which wasn't an ideal place anyway. RCA agreed to put up a new building for us. I started dealing with people from headquarters about buying land. The company still had a requirement that any land purchased have a railroad siding adjacent to it. The property that looked most attractive-on the Middlesex Turnpike (Route 3A) off Route 128-had no railroad spur. We finally got the company to agree that we didn't need one. RCA bought thirty-five acres in Burlington, Massachusetts, and I helped get the land rezoned for industrial use.
Then we had to design the building. I had definite ideas on the kind of building I wanted-three or four stories tall and as compact as possible, so that people could get from one end to the other quickly. I wanted everyone to have a window to look out, to take advantage of the country landscape we were investing in. So I recommended a four-story, H-shaped building.
The first design that crossed my desk was for one story. "Why one story?," I asked.
"We're still not sure you're going to succeed, and if you don't succeed we want to be able to convert the building to a warehouse."
I continued to press for an H-shaped building and came up with what seemed like a great design. To my horror, when I arrived at the  building meeting in Camden and looked at the design that had been worked up, its floor plan was square.
"But we talked about an H!" I said.
"It really is an H," the designer said. "We just sort of folded it together."
I asked Johnny Woodward if we could go and see Art Malcarney (who by then had replaced Ted Smith as head of defense products). When we did, Art said, "If Seamans feels an H is what's needed to attract the people that we want, make it an H-shaped building!" We got a one-story H.
Then, right in the middle of construction, contract 28007 was canceled. We had reached the point where to continue with what we were doing would have involved a major increase in funding for RCA, and the feeling at the Air Force was that we already had accomplished our mission, namely, to put pressure on Hughes. Now that the Air Force had Hughes where it wanted them, it was time for us to get off the stage. It was not that we had failed the test. We had come up with designs that could have been used.
We had other contracts by then, but the cancellation of 28007 meant we had to make a big reduction in staff. We were still in Waltham at the time and were roughly six months away from moving to Burlington. I called a noontime meeting of the entire lab staff at Nuttings on the Charles, a place just around the corner from the Waltham Watch building, where I had gone in my college years to see Benny Goodman and other big bands. I intended to announce that, because of the cancellation of 28007, we had to let a third of the people go and that those who were being furloughed would receive their pink slips that afternoon. Just as I was heading to the meeting, I got a call from somebody in Camden who worked for Johnny Woodward. He said, "We think you ought to cut down by 50 percent, because even the contracts that we have are beginning to look a little bit shaky."
I said, "If you want to cut 50 percent, you come up here and do it yourself, and I'll tender my resignation." Headquarters finally backed off, and we let a third go. Still it was pretty traumatic.
A week before our new building was set to open, Malcarney came up to look at it. I had complained about the raw cinderblock walls in the corridors. The place looked like a jail. I had been told that  cinderblock was the most efficient material and didn't have to be painted. Paint cost money. On his inspection tour, Malcarney started walking down a corridor, stopped in his tracks, and said, "What damned fool around RCA leaves a wall looking like this?"
"What color would you like to see?," I asked him.
The dedication ceremony for the new building was quite an affair. Gene and I invited a lot of guests, including my father. RCA had many musicians on its payroll, including Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops. A high school orchestra was assembled for the dedication, and Fiedler conducted it. Governor Foster Furcolo gave a speech and cut the ribbon. He was given a high-tech device with which to zap the ribbon electronically, only it didn't work. Finally a pair of scissors was commandeered so that Furcolo could perform his role. Afterwards we put on a big show to demonstrate the kind of work we were doing.
Now that we had a new building, we had to get more work. RCA did acquire new contracts and eventually built back up to and past the size we had been at before the loss of 28007. Buildings were added to accommodate manufacturing, and by the mid-1960s, the Burlington facility employed about 2,500 people. By then, though, I had moved to a much bigger, much more exciting mission.
My five years at RCA, from 1955 to 1960, were my only experience working full-time for industry. The big difference at RCA, compared with MIT, was that everybody in the laboratory knew he or she had one job-to work for RCA-and that I was RCA's manager in residence. There was nobody coming around saying, "I'm sorry, I can't help you today because I'm teaching a course, and tomorrow I'm attending a meeting in Washington." Everybody was pulling in one direction.
On the other hand, a corporation is a maze of people, and at RCA I had to deal with many layers in order to get things done. I had hundreds of people working for and with me. I reported to John Woodward in Camden, who was in charge of aircraft fire control. He in turn worked for Ted Smith (replaced by Art Malcarney), also in  Camden. In addition, there was the New York office, where the whole organization was headed by David Sarnoff, founder of the company. At each level of the organization there were staff people, making the maze that much more complex.
There were a lot of constraints on me as manager. Starting salaries were just one example. When I tried to hire someone for slightly more than the level dictated by RCA's pay scale, I heard from administrative people who said they didn't see how RCA could pay that much.
"He's the perfect person for this job," I said, "and you're going to quibble over $30 a month?"
"I'm sorry. For somebody in that category, the bandwidth goes from $570 to $590." So I had to call someone higher up the chain of command and haggle with him. I generally won, but it was a neverending battle.
I suspect that I was not as well suited to the corporate life as I was to academic life (or later to government work). At RCA, I found it very hard to focus primarily on the bottom line. Obviously, a company can't be in the red year in and year out and stay alive, but at RCA so much seemed to hinge on dollars and cents month by month (and certainly quarter by quarter) that it seemed very difficult to get people to think long-term. If margins were pressured, for example, one of the first things that usually got cut was independent research and development. I thought it ought to be just the reverse. When times get lean, a company ought to spend money on what's going to help it four or five years down the road instead of trying simply to look good next quarter. The securities analysts aren't going to like it, and the stock price is going to go down, but in the long run it may be better for the company.
In Art Malcarney, I found an exceptional role model for management within an organization as big and complex as RCA. Malcarney provided my first experience of dealing with what I would call a hard-boiled businessman. He had come up through manufacturing. He was tough. The people who worked with him stood in awe of him. If he said go, you went.
One story epitomizes him. RCA had the job of designing and building the ground electronics for the Atlas missile. One part of this system was called APCHE (Atlas Programmed Checkout Equipment). APCHE's purpose was to determine whether the Atlas missile was ready to go or not, and manufacture of APCHE became our responsibility  in Burlington. The total RCA effort was not going as well as the Air Force wanted, and the Air Force was bearing down on RCA. Instead of telling the head of the division responsible for the Atlas ground electronics to get going, Malcarney personally flew to Vandenburg Air Force Base to oversee RCA's work there. He commandeered a trailer and set up shop. Every morning at six o'clock he held a meeting in his trailer to find out how RCA had done the previous day. If things weren't done, people had to duck!
A piece of equipment was needed urgently. Malcarney called a vice president back in Camden and said, "I want to have that piece of equipment out here tomorrow in the a.m., and I want you to bring it." The vice president got the equipment but thought to himself, Malcarney couldn't mean that I personally am supposed to take it out there! So he arranged to have it flown directly to Los Angeles, picked up there, and driven sixty miles north to Malcarney at Vandenburg. Bad weather came along, and the flight was diverted to Dallas, Texas. Malcarney telephoned the vice president and fired him on the spot. Then he made it very clear throughout all of RCA what he had done.
Tough stuff-but Malcarney saved the project. And while he was out there in that trailer, he was not only running the Atlas electronics project but also overseeing the totality of RCA's effort in defense products. That was quite an example for me. I don't think a manager always has to go to that extreme to lead people effectively, but clearly he has got to tell people what he wants them to do and be prepared to react unequivocally if they don't do it. Otherwise, his leadership will rapidly erode. It was a lesson I have tried to apply everywhere else.
1 Once, when sightseeing with us, Grandmother made a memorable pronouncement. While viewing a monument in what is now Innsbruck, Austria, one of us asked her what it was. She answered, "I don't know what it is, children, but it's very important!"
2 Years later, I ran into White's assistant, Dr. Conger Williams, who showed me the file cards White had kept on my case. "We weren't really sure what to do with you," he confessed. Evidently Dr. White almost decided to put me in a hospital and run catheters into my heart to determine what was going on. In those days that would have been a pretty extreme measure, although it's common practice today.
3 Dick Lewis received his master's degree from Harvard in 1941, designed aircraft for Chance Vought during World War II, and had a successful career in the aircraft industry.