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Henry Godfrey Avers

In selecting Henry Godfrey Avers for the “Man-of-the-Month” the Buzzard is paying a tribute to one of the most popular and genial men in the office.

“Captain” Henry, as he’s known to his fishing pals entered the Bureau way back in 1908 as a computer in the Division of Geodesy, and has seen that division grow from a little shrimp in the government’s ocean to a good size fish with a healthy income, thanks to its efforts in the war program.

Not all of Aver’s service was in the office as from 1918 to 1922 he was in the field, running levels in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Vermont with some traverse in Wisconsin. In those early days of field work the roads and highways weren’t the smooth avenues they are today and the horse was the favored means of locomotion. Food was anywhere you could get it, as the hot-dog stand had not then been born. Trailers, tourist camps, radios and a few of the things that go with field life today weren’t there, and when a man went to the field in those days, he literally did just that.

But Capt. Henry seems to have enjoyed it and his field experience gave him a broader understanding of the office problems in computing the field work.

On his return to the Division he became a Senior Mathematician, Chief of the Section of Leveling and then Chief Mathematician where his deft touch in handling personnel, solving knotty equations and keeping the Division on its good behavior has made him a valued and important member of the Bureau. His tact and sympathy in dealing with the personnel of the Division is well known and many a person has gone in to weep on his shoulder about the injustice of it all; to come away feeling sure that “Mr. Avers would do something about it.”

Not only in the Division has his executive ability been displayed but in the various scientific and engineering societies with which he has been associated for a number of years. For ten years he served the Washington Academy of Sciences as treasurer, handling their finances with ease after his long experience in figuring the estimates of the Division. In the Am. Soc. C. E. he has been an active member, and has been Secretary of the Division of Surveying and Mapping of that Society since its beginning in 1929. He has seen the interest in surveying and mapping grow from a few individuals to a large organization, and he has played no small part in developing and fostering this interest. The American Geophysical Union has also reaped the benefit of his capable assistance as he was secretary of the Sec. of Geodesy from 1929-31 and Chairman from 1932-35.

He’s a member of the Math Assn. of American, Philos. Soc. of Wash., Wash. Soc. of Engrs., Amer. Assn. Advn. of Sc., Nat’l Geog. Soc. (incidentally his connection with that Society has produced benefits in the shape of apples each year from Admiral Byrd’s office; he was a member of the Comm. which determined how close Admiral Byrd went to the North and South Poles), the Cosmos Club, and the Cong. of Surveying and Mapping. He is also a Mason and belongs to the Scottish Rite and the Shriners.

Right now he’s helping the war effort by acting as Air Raid Warden for his district. At the first blast of the “hoot-nanny” he’s out in the street and on the alert for any forbidden flickers of light and ready to help in any emergency.

On the lighter side of things, Capt. Henry is an ardent fisherman and likes nothing better than to get a gang together for a trip down the Bay. His desk holds an amazing collection of catalogues containing mouth-watering descriptions of spinners, flies, lures, etc., appealing items for the true piscator.

In the old B.W. (before war) days hardly a month went by in the summer without the old gang, consisting of Avers, Parkhurst, Weideman, Griffin and any one else they could drag along, dashing down to the Bay to enjoy an afternoon of good fellowship and tantalizing hope of making a record catch. On a few occasions their luck was good and when it wasn’t – well, like all fishermen, that didn’t stop them from making their stories good….

In spite of his many interests and varied activities, Capt. Henry remains cool, calm, and collected at all times, whether it’s answering some crank letter on how to solve the world’s problems by mathematical processes, tactfully interviewing some would-be mathematician, checking complex computations or handling the details of a bond campaign. Even the annual estimates prove to be ducksoup for him….

In: “The Buzzard”, Vol. IX, No. 45, pp. 1, 2, 7. Nov. 5, 1942.

It is with profound regret that we announce the death of Henry Godfrey Avers, Chief Mathematician of the Division of Geodesy, at his home, 4109 – 38th Street, N.W., after an illness of several weeks.

Mr. Avers was born in Elmore, Ohio, on March 6, 1886. He attended the College of Engineering, Ohio Northern University, and graduated from George Washington University with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He entered on duty with the Coast and Geodetic Survey December 15, 1908, and was the author of various articles.

He was a member of the Mathematical Association of America, Philosophical Society of Washington, Washington Academy of Science, American Society of Civil Engineers and Secretary of the Division of Surveying and Mapping since 1929, the American Geophysical Union, American Astronomical Society, National Geographic Society, Cosmos Club of Washington, Albert Pike Lodge No. 36, F.A.A.M., Albert Pike Consistory Scottish Rites Masons, Almas Temple Ancient Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine, member of the National Geographic Society Committee of Experts which determined that Commander Byrd went by airplane very close to the North Pole in 1926 and the South Pole in 1929. He was a member of the Reformation Lutheran Church of Washington….

In: “The Buzzard,” January 23, 1947. P. 5.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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