Robert Seamans


Robert Seamans
Secretary of The Air Force Robert C. Seamans official portrait.jpg
United States Secretary of the Air Force
In office
February 15, 1969 – May 15, 1973
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byHarold Brown
Succeeded byJohn L. McLucas
Personal details
Robert Channing Seamans Jr.

(1918-10-30)October 30, 1918
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 2008(2008-06-28) (aged 89)
Beverly, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Eugenia Merrill
EducationHarvard University (B.S.)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.S., Sc.D.)

Robert Channing Seamans Jr. (October 30, 1918 – June 28, 2008) was an MIT professor who served as NASA Deputy Administrator and 9th United States Secretary of the Air Force.

Birth and education

He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, to Pauline and Robert Seamans. His great-great-grandfather was Otis Tufts.[1] Seamans attended Lenox School, in Lenox, Massachusetts; earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Harvard University in 1939 or 1940;[1] a Master of Science degree in aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1942; and a Doctor of Science degree in instrumentation from MIT in 1951. Seamans also received the following honorary degrees: Doctor of Science from Rollins College (1962) and from New York University (1967); Doctor of Engineering from the Norwich Academy (1971), from the University of Notre Dame (1974), and from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1974.

Early career

Seamans with Werner Von Braun and President Kennedy at Cape Canaveral 1963.

From 1941 to 1955 he held teaching and project positions at MIT during which time he worked on aeronautical problems, including instrumentation and control of airplanes and missiles. Positions that he held at MIT included: Instructor (1941–1945), Assistant Professor (1945–1950), and Associate Professor (1950–1955), Department of Aeronautical Engineering; Project Engineer, Instrumentation Laboratory; Chief Engineer, Project Meteor; and Director, Flight Control Laboratory.

Seamans joined the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in 1955 as Manager of the Airborne Systems Laboratory and Chief Systems Engineer of the Airborne Systems Department. In 1958, he became Chief Engineer of the Missile Electronics and Controls Division at RCA in Burlington, Massachusetts.

NACA and NASA career

Seamans during NASA post-flight conference on the Gemini XII mission at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1966.

From 1948 to 1958, Seamans also served on technical committees of NASA's predecessor organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. He served as a consultant to the Scientific Advisory Board of the United States Air Force from 1957 to 1959, as a Member of the Board from 1959 to 1962, and as an Associate Advisor from 1962 to 1967. He was a National Delegate, Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (NATO) from 1966 to 1969.

In 1960, Seamans joined NASA as Associate Administrator. In 1965, he became Deputy Administrator, retaining many of the general management-type responsibilities of the Associate Administrator and also serving as Acting Administrator. During his years at NASA he worked closely with the Department of Defense in research and engineering programs and served as Co-chairman of the Astronautics Coordinating Board. Through these associations, NASA was kept aware of military developments and technical needs of the Department of Defense and Seamans was able to advise that agency of NASA activities which had application to national security.

Post-NASA career

In January 1968 he resigned from NASA to become a visiting professor at MIT and in July 1968 was appointed to the Jerome Clarke Hunsaker professorship, an MIT-endowed visiting professorship in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, named in honor of the founder of the Aeronautical Engineering Department. During this period with MIT, he was also a consultant to the Administrator of NASA.

Seamans was also president of the National Academy of Engineering from May 1973 to December 1974, when he became the first administrator of the new Energy Research and Development Administration. He returned to MIT in 1977, becoming dean of its School of Engineering in 1978. In 1981 he was elected chair of the board of trustees of Aerospace Corp.

Secretary of the Air Force

Air Force Secretary Robert C. Seamans, Jr. on a testing flight with General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark.

In 1969, Seamans was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the position of Secretary of the United States Air Force. During his four-year tenure Seamans made several significant and lasting contributions. He recognized that despite funding reductions, the Air Force needed to modernize its aircraft technology in order to prepare against unknowable future threats. To meet the need for financially efficient modernization of the fleet, Seamans implemented an innovative program utilizing technological research to provide a range of development options. In this way the Air Force would have multiple options from which to choose to meet specific threats of an unpredictable future. Prototypes designed in this program continued to be utilized into the 1980s.

Seamans originally accepted his appointment for two years, however he offered to renew his commitment for another two years under the condition that the United States terminate military activity in Southeast Asia.[2][3] Seamans retired from his duties as Secretary of the Air Force on May 15, 1973 and was replaced by John L. McLucas.[2]

Personal life

Seamans married Eugenia Merrill on June 13, 1942, in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. He had three sons (Robert III, Joseph and Daniel) and two daughters (Katharine Padulo and May Baldwin). Seamans also had 11 grandchildren.[1]

He died on June 28, 2008, in Beverly, Massachusetts, at age 89.[1]

Legacy and honors


  1. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis (July 3, 2008). "R. C. Seamans Jr., NASA Figure, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-03. Robert C. Seamans Jr., NASA’s nuts-and-bolts manager of the Apollo moon-landing program, who later served as secretary of the Air Force and then as the first administrator of the federal energy research agency, died Saturday at his home in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. He was 89.
  2. ^ a b "Former Secretary of the Air Force Seamans dies". Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  3. ^ Seamans, Robert C (April 30, 1996). Aiming at Targets: The Autobiography of Robert C. Seamans Jr. (The NASA history series). US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. ISBN 978-0160489075.
  4. ^ "About SEA Ships". Sea Education Association. Retrieved 2015-07-31.


  • R. C. Seamans Jr. Project Apollo: The Tough Decisions. Monographs in Aerospace History Number 37. NASA SP-2005-4537, Washington, D.C., 2005.
  • R. C. Seamans, Aiming At Targets: The Autobiography Of Robert C. Seamans Jr., Memoirs Unlimited, c1994.
  • Air Force History Page on Dr. Robert C. Seamans at (archived 2012-12-12)
  • Tom Mueller, Crisis of Conscience, pages 76 – 77.

External links

  • Interview with Robert Seamans for NOVA series: To the Moon WGBH Educational Foundation, raw footage, 1998
Military offices
Preceded by
United States Secretary of the Air Force
February 15, 1969 - May 15, 1973
Succeeded by