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"For outstanding contributions to technology in the field of electronic instruments associatedclarence burmister with marine surveying through his able administration of the Radiosonic Laboratory of the Coast and Geodetic Survey," Clarence Burmister was among the Who's Who Among Award Winners.

Clarence, only employee to win the Department of Commerce exceptional service award for 1954, has been in the Survey since 1925, when he reported from his home in Pasadena, California, after receiving his engineering degree from California Institute of Technology. In his first assignment as a deck officer on the GUIDE, working out of San Francisco, his commanding officer, Captain Thomas A. Maher, reported that the young deck officer was particularly interested and proficient in operating sonic and electrical equipment. His interest in the field of electronic instruments and equipment continued through his subsequent assignments and career in the Survey, until on February 23, he received the highest award the Department of Commerce can give. In February 1927, he was commissioned in the Coast and Geodetic Survey. In July 1942, Clarence was transferred to the Engineer Amphibian Command, U.S. Army. Upon return to the Bureau, his commanding officer commended him for his excellent work, not only as a teacher of officers and men, but also as a technician developing new procedures and types of navigation equipment.

Since 1946, he has guided the Radiosonic Laboratory of this Bureau so that its usefulness to other branches of the Bureau has greatly increased. A few examples of this are design and construction of the electronics elements of the visual magnetometer for Geophysics; the Roberts Radio Meter for Tides and Currents; a telemetering system for relaying seismic data for Geophysics; and improvement in the design of circuits used in mapping cameras for the Photogrammetry Division. In addition, under his guidance the Electronic Position Indicator System has been continually redesigned and improved with the result that "pinpoint" accuracy is obtained in the device used for precise location of survey vessels engaged in offshore hydrography.

This system has been adopted by the Navy. This exceptional service medal will be added to the meritorious award which Clarence received in 1951 for his pioneer work in introducing Shoran as a navigation system for hydrographic surveys; and to the Silver Star which he received for gallantry in action when he was a Corporal with the 110th Infantry near Apremont, France, in September 1918. Clarence modestly accepts these and other honors which he receives and quietly pursues his work and hobbies of gardening and music. Rear Admiral Clarence A. Burmister, Chief of the Radiosonic Laboratory, retired May 1, 1956, from active duty after more than 30 years of service in the Coast and Geodetic Survey. He was born in Prescott, Arizona, on April 7, 1896, and received his early education at the Prescott elementary and high schools.

In 1925 he was graduated Cum Laude from California Institute of Technology, with the degree Bachelor of Science. On September 1, 1925, he entered on duty in the Coast and Geodetic Survey as Ensign and has advanced continuously through the grades to the highest rank in the service. His first assignment was at the San Francisco District Office until the end of September when he was assigned to see duty aboard the Ship GUIDE engaged on hydrographic surveys alone the Pacific coast. His next assignment was a tour of duty in the Philippine Islands aboard the Ships MARINDUQUE, old PATHFINDER and FATHOMER. Upon his return to the States he was assigned to the Washington Office from November 1, 1929 to February 24, 1930.

He then returned to sea, serving aboard the Ships OCEANOGRAPHER, RANGER, NATOMA, and LYDONIA engaged on hydrographic surveys along the Atlantic coast, HYDROGRAPHER conducting EPI-controlled hydrographic surveys in the Gulf of Mexico, and the DISCOVERER, EXPLORER and SURVEYOR engaged on combined operations in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska. On other assignments he served as Chief of Party in Georgia and Florida with the Ship MILLER under his command, and with the Inspector of COnstruction in Seattle, Washington, during the building of the new Ship PATHFINDER.

During World War II he was detached for duty with the War Department Headquarters Amphibian Command. For this service he was awarded the following CITATION: "CLERENCE A. BURMISTER is hereby authorized to war the Army Commendation Ribbon by direction of the Secretary of War for outstanding and meritorious service from August 8, 1942, to December 4, 1943. During this period Commander Burmister served on the staff of the Commanding General, engineer Amphibian Command, Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, as Technical Navigation Advisor. He was particularly outstanding in developing navigation aids which later proved highly successful in the prosecution of a new and effective type of amphibious warfare. Through untiring efforts, wholehearted and loyal attention to duty, Commander Burmister reflected great credit upon the military service and himself."

Also during World War II he was detached for a special assignment with the United States Navy at Brunswick, Maine, and for advanced study at Bowdoin College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in electronics. During World War I he served in France with Company C, 110th Infantry, 28th Division from September 1917 to June 1919, and participated in the Aisne River, Meuse Argonne and St. Mihiel engagements. He was awarded the SILVER MEDAL for gallantry in action near Apremont, France.

"On September 29, 1918, he was knocked unconscious by a machine-gun bullet which grazed his scalp during an enemy heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. Upon recovering consciousness he carried a wounded comrade to a place of safety. His conduct exemplified great courage and disregard for personal safety." As a result of this citation, the Navy Board of Decorations and Medals on October 14, 1955, recommended that he be accorded the benefits of combat retirement. Consequently, upon his retirement he was promoted to the rank of Admiral by the Secretary of Commerce.

Admiral Burmister has served as Chief of the Radiosonic Laboratory from October 22, 1945, to the date of his retirement. During this time he has made outstanding contributions in research, design, and development of electronic methods pertaining to position fixing in hydrographic surveying. Shoran was developed and adapted by him to accurately control the position fixing of hydrographic surveys extending from 50 to 100 miles offshore.

The Electronic Position Indicator (EPI) was designed, constructed, and developed in the Radiosonic Laboratory under his direction for the position fixing of hydrographic surveys extending beyond the range of other electronic equipment. EPI has been adopted by the United States Navy for their special control projects.

Under his direction the Laboratory has also developed specifications for a new type portable echo-sounder. This scientific instrument is the first developed since World War II and contains many of the electronic and mechanical advances made during and since the close of hostilities.

Among the other accomplishments under his direction are the development of the electronic elements of a visual magnetometer, the electronic elements of a radio current meter, a telemetering system for relaying seismic data to remote recorders, and improvements is the design of mapping cameras. Leadership, guidance, and the example of technical competence set by Admiral Burmister for the employees under his supervision have been the principal factors in the success of projects assigned to the Radiosonic Laboratory.

His encouragement of independent thought and original approach to research and development characterized his administration of the Laboratory, and have resulted in superior and timely solutions to many challenging assignments in the field of electronics. In 1951, Admiral Burmister was awarded the Department of Commerce's Silver Medal for meritorious achievements in his introduction of precision electronic instruments in hydrographic surveying.

In 1955, he was further honored with the Department of Commerce's Gold Medal for exceptional service in his administration of the Radiosonic Laboratory leading to outstanding technological advances in hydrographic surveying. Admiral Burmister is the only person in the Coast and Geodetic Survey to receive both of these awards. He is the author or numerous papers on navigational systems. Some of these papers have appeared in the United Nations publication, World Cartography, International Hydrographic Review, Surveying and Mapping and The Journal of the Institute of Navigation.

Through his able authorship and as an effective speaker before various well-known scientific organizations, Admiral Burmister has effectively demonstrated how modern electronic advancements have contributed in a major way to the present high standing of the Coast and Geodetic Survey in the scientific and engineering world. Admiral Burmister has served for a number of years as a member of the Executive Committee, Radio Technical Commission for Marine Services.

He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Honorary Engineering Fraternity, the Society of American Military Engineers, Institute of Navigation and U.S. Naval Institute. On Monday evening, May 14, 1956, at the annual dinner at the Army Map Service, the Society of American Military Engineers presented Rear Admiral Clarence A. Burmister with the COLBERT MEDAL for 1955 for his outstanding contributions in the field of electronics of scientific value to the military. This was the first award of the COLBERT MEDAL, and Rear Admiral Leo Otis Colbert, C&GS, retired, made the presentation. Admiral Burmister has long been interested in community and church affairs, particularly in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda areas.

He has been active in teaching boys' classes in the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church and is Treasurer of the church school. Admiral Burmister will continue to reside at 5604 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, Maryland, for the present.

The Buzzard, 2-3/1955
The Buzzard, 5/3/1956
The Buzzard, 5/18/1956

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.
Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:27 AM

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