Merton E. Davies

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Merton E. Davies
Merton E. Davies 2.jpg
Born(1917-09-13)September 13, 1917
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedApril 17, 2001(2001-04-17) (aged 83)
Alma materStanford University – Mathematics (1938)
Spouse(s)Louise Darling
(3 children)
  • * George W. Goddard Award
  • * NASA Certificate of Recognition for Technical Innovation, 1976[1]
  • * Talbert Abrams Award of the American Society of Photogrammetry
Scientific career
Merton E. Davies presents the cartographic coordinate systems of the Galilean moons of Jupiter in 1980.

Merton E. Davies (September 13, 1917 – April 17, 2001) was a pioneer of America's space program, first in earth reconnaissance and later in planetary exploration and mapping. He graduated from Stanford University in 1938 and worked for the Douglas Aircraft corporation in the 1940s. He worked as a member of RAND Corporation[2] after it split off from Douglas in 1948 and for the remainder of his career.


National Reconnaissance (1947–1970)[edit]

Davies' early work was highly classified and included original analyses of materials, payloads, structures, and propulsion systems for missiles and spacecraft.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Davies, along with Amrom Harry Katz, were early advocates of the United States' development of balloon and reconnaissance satellite technology (including CORONA).[10][11][12][13][14]

Davies made key contributions to US intelligence operations during critical periods of the Cold War.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Surprise Attack Conference in Geneva in 1958 and was later a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. In 1966 he was awarded the George W. Goddard Award for distinguished contributions to photo reconnaissance. In 1967 he served as a U.S. Observer on an inspection of foreign bases in Antarctica under terms of the Antarctic Treaty. He was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal by the U.S. Navy.

On August 18, 2000 Davies was acknowledged as one of the ten Founders of National Reconnaissance[21] by the National Reconnaissance Office for his leadership in advocating the use of satellites for national reconnaissance and inventing the Spin-Pan (torque compensating) camera concept. The other original Founders were: William O. Baker, Sidney Drell, Richard L. Garwin, Amrom Harry Katz, James R. Killian, Edwin H. Land, Frank W. Lehan, William J. Perry, Edward M. Purcell.[22] Although their early work was highly classified, this group of men went on to extraordinary public accomplishments, including a Secretary of Defense, a Nobel Laureate, a president of MIT, recipients of the Presidential Medal of Science, a renowned planetary scientist, and more.

Planetary Exploration (1965–2001)[edit]

In 1965 he participated in the first Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) attempt to fly to Mars a tiny primitive spacecraft carrying the world's first digital camera, Mariner 4, and the follow-on Mars flyby missions, Mariners 6 and 7. Then he went on to an unparalleled career in planetary exploration. He was a key member of the imaging teams of Mariners 6, 7, 9, and 10, of Voyagers 1 and 2 and Galileo and Cassini, of NEAR and Magellan.

He was responsible for creating the geodetic control network for the mapping of the surface of Mars, and thus had the honor of establishing its prime meridian.[23][24][25][26][27] As described by Tobias Owen for the American Astronomical Society: "Before launch, he participated in the design of the camera systems and the development of imaging strategies. When the data came in, it was Mert who established the coordinate systems for all of the target objects. The maps we have of Mercury, Venus, Mars and the satellites of the outer planets are all based on his work in establishing the point of zero longitude or the prime meridian for each object. As Bruce Murray has commented, to do so for even one such object would be a "major career achievement by any scientist," but to be credited for having done so for essentially every large solid object in the solar system except Earth and Pluto provides "an instructive lens through which to view Davies accomplishment."(EOS, 82, 46(13 November 2001):551–552.)[28][29]

He invented the photogrammetric control point technique that provided the basic framework for all planetary surface mapping and coordinates systems of his era. His fundamental contributions to planetary mapping led to his being the founding chairman of the IAU/IAG Working Group on Cartographic Coordinates and Rotational Elements of the Planets and Satellites in 1976. At about this same time, he became a member of the newly created task groups reporting to the IAU Working Group for Planetary and Satellite Nomenclature.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

He received the Talbert Abrams Award of the American Society of Photogrammetry in 1974. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

At the time of his death, he was credited with "single-handedly observing more of the solar system than any other human," by Torrence Johnson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory project scientist of Project Galileo.

The Martian crater Davies is named after him. It is situated on the prime meridian, appropriate because Davies established its location.


  1. ^ NASA Case Number 13718 "Technique for Computation of Geodetic Control Net"
  2. ^ "The Research and Development (RAND) Corporation Interviews". Record Unit 9536. Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  3. ^ Augenstein, B. W., Roles and Impacts of RAND in the Pre-Apollo Space Pro gram of the United States, IAA-95- IAA.2.l.05, International Astronautical Conference, 1995.
  4. ^ Augenstein, B. W., R. G. Wilson, et al., Long-Range Surface-to-Surface Ramjet Missiles: Preliminary Investigations and Results, Santa Monica, Calif.: Project RAND, RA-15070, March 1, 1948.
  5. ^ Davies, M. E., C. R. Culp, and T. F. Higgins, Long-Range Surface-to-Surface Rocket and Ramjet Missiles: Structure and Weights, Santa Monica, Calif.: R-182, May 1, 1950.
  6. ^ Miller, J., The X-Planes, New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
  7. ^ Lipp, J. E., and R. M. Salter, eds., Project Feed-Back, Summary Report (2 volumes), Santa Monica, Calif.:RAND, R-262, March 1, 1954. Augenstein, B. W., "A Revised Development Program for Ballistic Missiles of Intercontinental Range," Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, Special Memorandum No. 21, February 8, 1954.
  8. ^ Davies, M. E., The FEED-BACK Simulation Pictures Taken at RCA, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, RM-1555-PR, September 16, 1955.
  9. ^ Davies, M. E., A. H. Katz, et al., A Family of Recoverable Reconnaissance Sat ellites, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, RM-2012, November 12, 1957.
  10. ^ Greer, K. E., "CORONA," CIA Studies in Intelligence, Supplement 17, Spring 1973.
  11. ^ McDonald, R. A., "CORONA: Success for Space Reconnaissance, a Look into the Cold War, and a Revolution for Intelligence," Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, June 1995.
  12. ^ Day, D. A., J. M. Logsdon, and B. Latell, eds., Eye in the Sky: The Story of the CORONA Spy Satellites, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.
  13. ^ Taubman, P., Secret Empire-Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America's Space Espionage, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. CIA 1977 Intelligence Monograph, Critique of the Codeword Compartment in the CIA, Center for the Study of Intelligence, TR/ 1M77-02J, TCS 4530-77, March 1977.
  14. ^ Davies, M. E., and A. H. Katz, "A Dim View of the Man in Space, or, We Don't Need Him for RECCE," Internal Note, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, January 13, 1958.
  15. ^ Richelson, J. T., "A 'Rifle' in Space: USAF's KH-7 Spy Satellite System Constituted a Major Advance in Overhead Intelligence Collection," Air Force Magazine, Vol. 8b, No. 6, June 2003.
  16. ^ Murray, B. C., and M. E. Davies,A Comparison of U S. and Soviet Efforts to Explore Mars, Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, P-3285, January 1966. Also published in Science, Vol. 151, 1966.
  17. ^ Davies, Merton E., Inspection by Small Satellites., Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, P-3410, 1966. As of February 04, 2020:
  18. ^ Davies, M. E., and B. Murray, The Soviet Union's Zond 5: Is It Also a Planetary Spacecraft? Science, Vol. 162, pp. 245-246, 1968.
  19. ^ Murray, B. C., M. E. Davies, and P. K. Eckman, Planetary Contamination II. Soviet and U.S. Practices and Policies, Science, Vol. 155, pp. 1505-1511, 1967.
  20. ^ Hounshell, D., "The Cold War, RAND, and the Generation of Knowledge, 1946-1962," Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, RP-729, 1998. (Reprinted from Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, Vol. 27, No. 2, 1997).
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Davies, M. E., and R. A. Berg, "Preliminary Control Net of Mars,"Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 76, No. 2, pps. 373-393, January 10, 1971.
  24. ^ Davies, M. E., and D.W.G. Arthur, "Martian Surface Coordinates," "The Mariner 9 Areograph ic Coordinate System," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 78, No. 20, pp. 4355-4394, July 10, 1973.
  25. ^ Davies, M. E., and D.W.G. Arthur, "Martian Surface Coordinates," "The Mariner 9 Areographic Coordinate System," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 78, No. 20, pp. 4355-4394, July 10, 1973.
  26. ^ De Vaucouleurs, M. E. Davies, and F. M. Sturms, Jr., "The Mariner 9 Areographic Coordinate System," Journal of Geophysical Research , Vol. 78, No. 20, pp. 4395-4404, July 10, 1973.
  27. ^ Davies, M. E., "Mariner 9: Primary Control Net," Photogrammetric Engineering, Vol. 39, No. 12, December 1973, pp. 1297-1302.
  28. ^
  29. ^ Merton E. Davies, Thomas A. Hauge, et. al.: Control Networks for the Galilean Satellites: November 1979 R-2532-JPL/NASA
  30. ^ Davies, M. E., "Surface Coordinates and Cartography of Mercury," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 80, No. 17, June 10, 1975.
  31. ^ Davies, M. E., S. E. Dwornik, D. E. Gault, and R. G. Strom, NASA Atlas of Mercury, NASA Scientific and Technical Information Office, 1978.
  32. ^ Robinson, M. S., M. E. Davies, T. R. Colvin, and K. Edwards, "A Revised Control Net for Mercury," journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 104, El 2, pp. 30,847-30,852, 1999.
  33. ^ Davies, M. E., P. G. Rogers, and T. R. Colvin, "A Control Network of Triton," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vo l. 96, E l , pp. 15,675-15,681, 1991.
  34. ^ Thomas, P. C., M. E. Davies, T. R. Colvin, J. Oberst, P. Schuster, G. Neukum , M. H. Carr, A. McEwen, G. Schubert, M. J. S. Belton, and the Galileo Imaging Team, "The Shape of Io from Galileo Limb Measure ments," Icarus, 1998.
  35. ^ Carr, M. H., et al., "Evidence for a Subsurface Ocean on Europa" Nature, Vol. 391, pp. 363-365, 1998.
  36. ^ Davies, M. E., T. R. Colvin, M.J.S. Belton, J. Veverka, and P. C. Thomas, "The Direction of the North Pole and the Control Network of Asteroid 243 Ida," Icarus, Vol. 120, pp. 33-37, 1996.
  37. ^ Thomas, P. C., M.J.S. Belton, B. Carcich, C.R. Chapman, M.E. Davies, R. Sullivan, and J . Veverka, "The Shape of Ida," Icarus, Vol. 120, pp. 20-32, 1996.
  38. ^ Belton, M.J.S., B.E.A. Mueller, L. A. D'Amario, D. V. Byrnes, K. P. Klaasen, S. Synnott, H. Breneman, T. V. Johnson, P. C. Thomas, J. Veverka, A. P. Harch, M. E. Davies, W. J. Merline, C. R. Chapman, D. Davis, T. Denk, G. Neukum, J.-M. Petit, R. Greenberg, A. Storrs, and B. Zellner, "The Discovery and Orbit of 1993 (243) 1 Dactyl," Icarus, Vol. 120, pp. 185-199, 1996.
  39. ^ Veverka, J., P. C. Thomas, P. Helfenstein, P. Lee, A. Harch, S. Calvo, C. Chapman, M.J.S. Belton, K. Klaasen, T. V. Johnson, and M. Davies, "Dactyl: Galileo Observations of Ida's Satellite," Icarus, Vol. 120, pp. 200-211, 1996.
  40. ^ Davies, M. E., T. R. Colvin, M.J.S. Belton, J. Veverka, and P. C. Thomas, "The Direction of the North Pole and the Control Network of Asteroid 951 Gaspra," Icarus, Vol. 107, pp. 18-22, 1994.
  41. ^ Davies, M. E., T. R. Colvin, P. G. Rogers, P. G. Chodas, W. L. Sjogren, W. L. Akim, E. L. Stepanyantz, Z. P. Vlasova, and A. I. Zakharov, "The Rotation Period, Direction of the North Pole, and Geodetic Control Network of Venus," Journal of Geophysical Research , Vol. 97, £8, pp. 13,14 1-13,151, 1992.
  42. ^ Davies, M. E., and T. R. Colvin, "Lunar Coordinates in the Regions of the Apollo Landers," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 105, E8, pp. 20,277-20,280, 2000.

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