He graduated from Yale University in 1934 and joined the United States Navy as a reserve officer, where he was assigned to the Naval Security Group. His commission was reactivated in 1940 and he rejoined the NSG, working on Japanese problems with Agnes Driscoll. After a brief period working on German ciphers he returned to Japanese issues, and starting in 1942 was part of a group that systematically solved many of the low level codes. These were important as a source of cribs used in working the JN-25 fleet code. He also worked on the JADE and CORAL machines, both of which were successfully cracked.
After the war he stayed on as a civilian employee of the NSG, then joining the Armed Forces Security Agency in 1946 and moving on to NSA at its formation in 1952. From 1956 on he held a series of executive posts within the agency, culminating in his appointment as chief of the Office of NSA's training program and played a major part in the development of two cryptology courses, an effort which won him several civilian awards.
In retirement he established a firm for genealogical research, in which he was active until his death in 1983.
- "Cryptologic Almanac 50th Anniversary Series: Francis A. Raven" (PDF). National Security Agency. 24 February 1998.