Alan Tower Waterman

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Alan Tower Waterman
Born (1892-06-04)4 June 1892
Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York
Died 30 November 1967(1967-11-30) (aged 75)
Nationality US
Fields Physics
Institutions U. of Cincinnati
Office of Scientific Research and Development
Office of Naval Research
Alma mater Princeton
Notable awards Public Welfare Medal (1960)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963)
Waterman is seated at left; to his right are Presidential Press Secretary James Hagerty, Dr. S. Douglas Cornell and Dr. Alan Shapley. Standing: Dr. J. Wallace Joyce and Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus. Announcement of plans for the building and launching of the world's first man-made satellite, July 29, 1955. (NASA)

Alan Tower Waterman (June 4, 1892 – November 30, 1967) was an American physicist.

Born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, he grew up in Northampton, Massachusetts. His father was a professor of physics at Smith College. Alan also became a physicist, doing his undergraduate and doctoral work at Princeton University, from which he obtained his Ph.D. in 1916.

He joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati, and married Mary Mallon (sister of H. Neil Mallon) there in August 1917. He later became a professor at Yale University, and moved to North Haven, Connecticut in 1929. During World War II, he took leave of absence from Yale to become director of field operations for the Office of Scientific Research and Development, and the family moved to Cambridge, MA. He continued his government work and became deputy chief of the Office of Naval Research. In 1950, he was appointed as first director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Waterman was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1960.[1] He served as director until 1963, when he retired and was subsequently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died in 1967.

Alan and Mary had six children: Alan Jr., an atmospheric physicist, Neil, Barbara, Anne, Guy, the well-known climber, and Mary.

Besides his scientific talents, he was an accomplished musician and an avid outdoorsman, and eventually became a licensed Maine Guide.

The crater Waterman on the Moon is named after him, as is Mount Waterman in the Hughes Range of Antarctica. Since 1975, the National Science Foundation has annually issued the Alan T. Waterman Award (named in Waterman's honor) to a promising young researcher.


  1. ^ "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 
New office Director of the National Science Foundation
April 1951 - June 1963
Succeeded by
Leland J. Haworth

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