Category Archives: Robert Lawrence Hess

Biography of Dr. Robert Lawrence Hess 1924-2017

Dr. Robert Lawrence Hess

Dr. Hess was born i n New Jersey in 1924 and moved with his father, mother and brother to the family homestead in Berrien County, Michigan in 1930. The homestead was purchased from the local Indian tribes in the early 1800’s and then registered with the Michigan Territorial Government. He attended a rural , 2-room school for his first 8 grades and graduated from Benton Harbor High School i n 1942.

While in High School, Dr. Hess enlisted  in the U. S. Navy’s officer training program, V-12. Assigned to the University of Michigan, he received two B.S.E. degrees from the Engineering College in 1945 and was assigned to the Midshipman program at Columbia
University. He was commissioned as Ensign in October 1945 and married his fiance, Gretchen Lois Ream, in Bethlehem Church, Ann Arbor in December 1945. He served as junior division officer, main engines division , on a heavy cruiser at sea and later as division officer on a pair of light escort carriers. Upon release from active World War II  service he returned to Ann Arbor, the home of his wife.

Subsequently he was hired by the Dean of the Engineering College at Michigan as a full time Instructor  and asked to undertake a research project which became the basis of his Doctoral Thesis. “The Dynamics o f Ship’s Structures, including Shear Deformations”.
This work became the first major engineering work to be programmed for the ENIAC,  (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer was the world’s first general-purpose computer. ENIAC was designed and built for the United States Army to calculate artillery firing tables.) that being done by the David Taylor Model Basin, Dept. of the Navy, Washington D.C. During the three years of full time teaching as an Instructor , he served in the U.S. Naval Ready Reserve and spent his training periods at the Model Basin. He was honored by being requested to provide 40 hours of lectures at the Model Basin on advanced mathematics and dynamics for the scientific staff of the U.S. Navy when he was 24 years old.

Hess was recruited by the Bell Telephone Laboratories (BTL) and joined BTL, upon completion of  his doctorate, as a Member of the Technical Staff  in the fall of 1949, being assigned to a ‘heavy-tube’ Development Group. The many research projects he led there included the development o f the pilot line for the production of both the material for and the devices known as ‘point-contact’ , type A transistors. This was before the courts ordered BTL to place the technology on the market and was thus a unique endeavor for Dr. Hess upon which several of the newly licensed companies partly based their developments. It was typical of him to have the breadth of both interest and scientific knowledge that brought him such a coveted assignment and also success in it. He developed new techniques of crystal growing and zone-purifying as well as a novel method of doping the contact area using microwave techniques to create photo – sensitive transistors.

In his third year at BTL, the Dean of Engineering at Michigan called him with an unsolicited invitation to return to the U. of M. as an Assistant Professor, of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and to also take on a Phoenix Project dealing with the atomic structure of glass and ceramics. In 1955 he was
promoted to Associate Professor of Engineering Mechanics. He undertook the reactivation of the Engineering Mechanics Department’s Photo-Elasticity Lab. and generated a course for it as well as teaching in the areas of elasticity and dynamics.

In 1957, the University’s Vice President and Dean of Faculties asked Prof. Hess to join an elite committee of engineers and scientists to oversee the work of the Willow Run  Laboratories f o r the Department of the Army. In 1958 Hess was requested to take leave of his teaching and consulting practice and join a management team to direct the Willow Run Laboratories . Hess was given the assignment of Technical  Director o f  Project Michigan, a multi-million dollar a year program , as well as Assistant Directorship of Willow Run Laboratories. He also became the Head of the Applied Research Group of the Labs, which at that time had just demonstrated the MASER and a year later the demonstration of the Ruby LASER. Hess was instrumental in extending optical data processing to the field of automatic photo interpretation. This was of special importance since the surveillance devices developed by Project Michigan were then beginning to assume the prime role of  the national satellite surveillance system. In 1958, he was promoted to a full professorship, a promotion which was said to make Hess the youngest full professor in the college’s history at that time.

Prof. Hess had a keen ability to manage multiple teams of researchers on topics varying from information processing, semiconductor development, infrared scanning and synthetic antenna radar. He was able to apply his knowledge of  basic physics and
mathematics to these subjects both as a member of the research teams and also represented them to general officers representing the U. S. Army, and, upon the creation of a Department of Defense to the scientific part of that community. In his unique fashion and with unusual modesty, his term of management, which after three years included the project directorship as well as its technical direction, Hess always put his staff in the foreground and sacrificed personal fame in the process. Upon his decision to return to teaching, the Department of the Army awarded Prof. Hess with THE OUTSTANDING
CIVILIAN SERVICE AWARD and MEDAL the inscription of which read in part ‘”Hess succeeded  in establishing and maintaining the University of Michigan as the leading free world authority in surveillance technology. His own proven scientific talent and professional imagination contributed additionally to the accomplishments of a
broad team of scientists and technicians. The rare combination of skill , foresight and devotion to country…”

During 1964 and 1965, Hess also served as the personal representative of the U.S. Army’s Assist. Chief of Staff for Intelligence and led teams of scientists through a comprehensive field review of the Army’s Combat Surveillance  capabilities both in Europe and in Korea.

In  1965 Hess left the Project Michigan assignment and returned to full-time teaching.
President Hatcher offered Hess the challenge of using a $10 million gift from the automobile industry to create the Highway Safety Research Institute. This was a special honor as that gift was reported to have been the largest gift in the University’s history at that time. Hess was able to devote his attention to building the staff and its research programs and also to continue teaching which was his first love. With the cooperation of dozens of the University’s top faculty, Hess was able in a few years to build a facility, hire internationally known figures and to create a program of research spanning fields from Law to Medicine and from Engineering to Psychology. His untiring drive established the Institute as the world premiere institution of its kind and brought not only many millions of research dollars for the support of researchers, faculty, and graduate students but also enhanced the reputation of the University of Michigan. During his tenure at
H.S.R.I., Hess served as a consultant to the Army’ Science Board where he both chaired and participated in the study of many of the nation’s outstanding technical problems and challenges.

Professor Hess personally undertook major research studies while teaching a nearly full load and directing the H.S.R.I. These included a complete review of the research in the scientific, engineering and medical communities of the experimentation protocols in the
area of blunt trauma to the human head and blunt trauma to the thorax. In each case an annotated history of the development and use of the knowledge in research and regulation was made as well as recommendations for future research in the fields. The second area of these studies was selected for publication in the S.A.E. transactions.

Hess also served his university by membership on President Nixon’s Highway Safety Advisory Committee and through several overseas assignments as a Consultant to the World Health Organization. He served his church, Bethlehem United Church of Christ in several capacities including two terms as President. He also was Chairman of the Building Committee which brought about a remodeling of the sanctuary and the addition of a major office / educational wing in 1966.

Prof. Hess resigned his position as Director of U.M.T.R.I., (the successor to H.S.R.I.) and returned to a full time faculty teaching role i n 1984. He founded a computer software company, HCCI, which dealt in the forensic engineering specialty software for an international audience in the forensic engineering area. He undertook the teaching of the senior level Control Systems course with vigor and provided new leadership in its laboratory and course work with several software packages that he wrote to enhance the depth and breath of the educational  experience of the students. These include programs dealing with Fourier techniques, general integration methods, data plotting, frequency analysis, root locus, Nyquist techniques, Myklestad and Holzer techniques, matrix interaction techniques, eigenvalue/eigenvector techniques and many others. He also served as the Mechanical Engineering Program Advisor for over 600 students and wrote degree-audit software packages used by the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department. The implementation of modern techniques allowed Professor Hess, as the Advisor, to take a proactive rather than a reactive role in counseling.

Professor Hess’s academic and s service accomplishments were outstanding. The respect that he gained from his peers is only reflective of the credit he had given to them over a total of 37 years of devoted service to the University.  In the Pentagon, corporate offices, the classroom and laboratory he represented the best the University of Michigan could offer its students and country.

In addition to many academic and service honors Dr. Hess i s also recognized by a bronze bust in the lobby of the Institute he founded. He retired from the University in 1991.

Gretchen Ream and Robert Hess – 1945

FEBRUARY 1945

Robert and Gretchen wedding announcement Feb. 1945

On 14 Feb 1945, Robert Hess proposed to Gretchen Ream. Gretchen was 19 years old. Robert was 20 years old. As the article above states, Robert was a V-12 trainee in the University of Michigan Engineering School. The date of Robert’s entry into active service had been 1 July 1943. Gretchen and Robert had met in 1943, so they actually waited to become engaged. In 1943, Robert’s residence was at 426 Hamilton Place, Ann Arbor, MI and Gretchen lived with her mother at 520 N. Main Street, Ann Arbor.

At the time of their engagement, our country was still involved in WWII which we had entered the war in December 1941 after Pearl Harbor. In 1945, Gretchen was a secretary for Economy Baler Co.

APRIL 1945

On 1 April 1945, Easter Sunday, the photo below was taken of Gretchen and Robert having fun with a bike and a wagon. It was one of Robert’s favorite photographs.

with text Gretchen and Bob Wagon Easter Parade 1945

On 10 April 1945, Gretchen’s brother Robert Ream received a Purple Heart after his leg injury.

On 13 Apr 1945, Gretchen and Robert attended the Slide Rule Ball at the Michigan Union. She saved her dance card, autographed by the entertainer Louis Prima and his band.

Senior Ball 1945 Robert and Gretchen Hess (1)

On 21 April 1945, Robert and his brother George Hess graduate from the University of Michigan with honors.

1945 Engineering

MAY 1945

10 May 1945 – this article is about Gretchen’s brother, Robert Ream who was receiving the Oak Cluster.

Robert Ream news article wounded twice

 

On 2 November 1945, Robert Hess was appointed an Ensign in the US Navy.

Midshipman Graduation

Robert Hess served as Junior Division officer, main engines division, on a heavy cruiser at sea and later as auxiliary Division officer on a pair of light escort carriers.

On 30 November 1945 and 8 December 1945, Helen Mayer (Gretchen’s Aunt) hosted bridal showers.

Bridal Shower

On 15 December 1945, Gretchen and Robert were wed.

Invitation to wedding of Robert and Gretchen 12.15.1945

Robert and Gretchen Hess Dec 1945 wedding cake

On 16 Dec 1945, Robert and Gretchen began their honeymoon. I am fairly sure that their residence was 719 Oakland Ave., Ann Arbor, MI (see 1947 Ann Arbor Directory below- note that in 1947 George and Ruth Hess lived at 1107 Oakland Ave.)

719 Oakland

 

Robert L. Hess- History of Research, Service and Teaching Contributions to the University of Michigan

Dr. Robert Lawrence HessMemorandum to File: Nov. 24, 1986

Subject: Robert L. Hess’s History of Research, Service and Teaching Contributions to the University of Michigan.

In 1945, Professor Hess received two B.S.E. degrees from the University of Michigan in less than a 3 year period, one in Engineering Mathematics and the other in Engineering Mechanics after which he served as an Engineering Officer in the U.S. Navy. Hess served as junior Division officer, main engines division, on a heavy cruiser at sea and later as auxiliary Division officer on a pair of light escort carriers.

Upon release from active World War II service he returned to Ann Arbor, the home of his wife, Gretchen R. (REAM) Hess. On a visit to the Engineering Mechanics office he was hired as a full-time Instructor and was asked to undertake a research project by Prof. J. Ormandroyd. The project became the basis of his Doctorial Thesis, “The Dynamics of Ship’s Structures, including Shear Deformations”. This work was directed by Professor Ormandroyd and became one of the first major engineering works to be programmed for the ENIAC (that being done by the David Taylor Model Basin, Dept. of the Navy). During the three years of full time teaching as an Instructor, (Dr.) Hess served in the U.S. Naval Ready Reserve and spent his training periods at the Model Basin. He was honored by being requested to provide 40 hours of lectures at the Model Basin on advanced mathematics and dynamics for the scientific staff of the U.S. Navy when he was 24 years old.

Professor Hess was recruited by the Bell Telephone Laboratories and joined BTL, upon completion of his doctorate, as a Member of the Technical Staff in the fall of 1949, being assigned to a ‘heavy-tube’ Development Group. The many research projects he participated in included the assignment to undertake the development of a pilot line for the production of both the material for and the devices known as ‘point-contact’, type A transistors.(This was before the courts ordered BTL to place the technology on the market and was thus a unique endeavor for Dr. Hess upon which several of the newly licensed companies partly based their developments.) It was typical of him to have the breadth of both interest and scientific knowledge that brought him such a coveted assignment and also success in it. He developed new techniques of crystal growing and zone-purifying as well as a novel method of doping the contact area using microwave techniques to created photo-sensitive transistors.

In his third year at BTL Dean G.G. Brown called him with an unsolicited invitation to return to the U. of M. as an Assistant Prof. of Chemical and Metallurgical Eng. and Assistant Professor of Engineering Mechanics and to also take on a Phoenix Project dealing with the atomic structure of glass. Dean Brown gave Prof. Hess the challenge of creating a new course in structure of glass and ceramics. At the end of his third year Hess was promoted to Associate Professor of Engineering Mechanics and left the Chem. Met. Dept. He undertook the reactivation of the Engineering Mechanics Department’s Photo-Elasticity Lab. and generated a course for it as well as teaching in the areas of elasticity and dynamics.

In about 1957, Vice President and Dean of Faculties, Prof. M. Niehus asked Prof. Hess to join an elite committee of engineers and scientists to oversee the work of the Willow Run Laboratories which at that time was experiencing troubled relationships with the Department of the Army, its prime source of support. In Jan. 1958 Dean Niehuss requested that Hess take leave of his teaching and consulting practice and join a new management team, headed by Prof. J.A. Boyd (now Chairman of Harris Corp.) to salvage and redirect the Willow Run Laboratories. Hess was given the specific assignment of Technical Director of Project Michigan, a 4 to $6 million/year program, as well as an Assistant Directorship of WRL. In addition Hess became the Head of the Applied Research Group of the Labs, which at that time had just demonstrated the MASER and a year prior to the demonstration of the Ruby LASER. Hess was instrumental in extending optical data processing to the field of automatic photo-interpretation. In March of 1958 Dean Attwood informed Hess of the approval of his promotion to full Professorship. ( A promotion which was said to make Hess the youngest full professor in the College’s history up to that time.)

Prof. Hess soon developed a keen ability to manage multiple teams of researchers on topics varying from Information processing, semiconductor development, infrared scanning and synthetic antenna radar. He was able to apply his knowledge of basic physics and mathematics to the tasks as a member of the research teams and also represented them to general officers representing the U. S. Army, and, upon the creation of a Department of Defense to the scientific part of that community. In his unique fashion and with unusual modesty, his term of management, which after three years included the project directorship as well as its technical direction, Hess always put his staff in the foreground and sacrificed personal fame in the process. Never-the-less upon his decision to return to teaching, the Department of the Army awarded Prof. Hess with THE OUTSTANDING CIVILIAN SERVICE AWARD and METAL the inscription of which read in part  ‘Hess succeeded in establishing and maintaining the University of Michigan as the leading free world authority in surveillance technology. His own proven scientific talent and professional imagination contributed additionally to the accomplishments of a broad team of scientists and technicians. The rare combination of skill, foresight and devotion to country….’.

During the years of 1964 and 1965, Hess served as the personal representative of the U.S. Army’s Assist. Chief of Staff for Intelligence and lead teams of scientists though a comprehensive field review of the Army’s Combat Surveillance capabilities both in Europe and in Korea. The Army implemented over 70% of his technical recommendations for the Korean area. In 1965 Professor Hess visited with President H. Hatcher with the view of leaving the Project Michigan assignment and returning to full-time teaching. By that time, the I.S.T. had been created and W.R.L. was part of it and Hess was one of its Directors. President Hatcher, through Prof. Norman, Vice President for Research offered Hess the challenge of using the $10 million original gift from the automobile industry to create the Highway Safety Research Institute. This was a special honor as that gift was reported to have been the largest gift in the University’s history at that time. Upon acceptance, Hess hired a top level ‘internal administrator’ for H.S.R.I. and thus was able to devote his attention to building the staff and its research programs and also to return to teaching which was his first love. With a Regent ally appointed Executive Committee and with the cooperation of dozens of the University’s faculty Hess was able in a few years to build a facility, hire internationally known figures and to build a program of research spanning fields from Law to Medicine and from Engineering to Psychology. His untiring drive established the Institute as the world’ premier institution of its kind and brought not only many millions of research dollars to our campus for the support of researchers, faculty, and graduate students but also enhanced the reputation of the University of Michigan.

During his tenure at H.S.R.I., Hess served as a consultant to the Army’ Science Board where he both chaired and participated in the study of many of the nation’s outstanding technical problems and challenges.

Professor Hess personally undertook two major research studies while teaching a nearly full load and directing the H.S.R.I. These were the review of the complete research findings in the scientific, engineering and medical communities of the experimentation protocols and the same for the area of blunt trauma to the human head and the same for the area of blunt trauma the thorax. In each case an annotated history of the development of the use of the knowledge in regulation was developed and  recommendations were made for future research in the fields. The second of these studies was selected for publication in the S.A.E.’ transactions. Hess served the University by membership on President Nixon’s Highway Safety Advisory Committee and also undertook several overseas services as a Consultant to the Wor1d Hea1th Organization.

Prof Hess resigned his position as Director of U.M.T.R.I. (the successor to H.S.R.I.) and returned to a full time faculty teaching role in January of 1984. Shortly thereafter Hess founded a computer software company, HCCI, which deals in engineering specialty software for a international audience in the forensic engineering area. In keeping with his reputation, he has undertaken the teaching of the Control Systems course, ME461, a new course for him, with vigor and has provided new leadership in its laboratory and course work with several software packages he has written to enhance the depth and breath of the educational experience of the students. These include programs dealing with Fourier techniques, general integration methods, data plotting, frequency analysis, root locus, Nyquist techniques, Myk1lestad and Holzer techniques, matrix iteration techniques, eigenvalue/eigenvector techniques and many others. He also accepted an assignment as the Mechanical Engineering Program Advisor and has written degree-audit software packages now used by the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department. The implementation of modern techniques allows Professor Hess, as the Advisor, to take a proactive rather than a reactive role in counseling. Similar HCCI software is now being installed in a large engineering college.

Professor Hess’s academic and service accomplishments are outstanding and the respect that he has gained from his peers is only reflective of the credit he has given to them over a total of 37 years of devoted service to the University. In the Pentagon, corporate offices, the classroom and laboratory he has represented the best the University of Michigan could offer its students and country.

Robert Hess retired from active faculty status