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The Coast and Geodetic Survey lost one of its most valued and highly esteemed members in the death of Walter Ford Reynolds on Friday, May 1, at the Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Although Mr. Reynolds had been in ill health for the past few months, his death was a great shock to his host of friends in the Bureau.

Mr. Reynolds was born in Baltimore on May 25, 1880, where he attended the local schools, graduating from Johns Hopkins University with the degree of A.B. in 1902. After a few years of graduate work in mathematics and physics at that university, he served as an instructor of mathematics in Baltimore City College from 1905 to 1906 and as a computer in the U. S. Naval Observatory in 1907.

He entered the C&GS in 1907 as a computer and with the exception of three years as a computer in the International Boundary Commission, U.S. and Canada, continued as a member of the Div. of Geodesy. Since 1924 he was Chief of the Section of Triangulation. His highly technical and scientific abilities were applied to the solution of intricate problems in geodetic surveying and he received recognition as a leading authority in that work. As Chief of the Triangulation Section, he directed a large staff of mathematicians engaged in the computation and adjustment of the national triangulation survey of the country. In the course of this work, Mr. Reynolds prepared and published a number of reports and technical manuals.

He was a member of many scientific societies including the Mathematical Association of America, the Philosophical Society of Washington, the American Geophysical Union, Washington Academy of Sciences, National Geographic Society, and Pi Gamma Mu.

Mr. Reynolds is survived by his wife, Mrs. Ada C. Reynolds, and three children; Mrs. Catherine A. Mummert, Robert W. Reynolds and Walter F. Reynolds, Jr. Funeral services were held on Monday, May 4, at his home in Baltimore, and burial was at Druid Ridge Cemetery.

Not only was Mr. Reynolds highly esteemed for his scientific and technical abilities, but his kindly personality had gained for him many friends during his 35 years in the Bureau. His willingness to cooperate, his friendly sympathy, and his great capacity for friendship endeared him to all his associates. The Bureau has lost not only one of its best mathematicians, but a loyal friend as well.

In: “The Buzzard,” Vol. IX, p. 3. May 7, 1942.

The late Walter Ford Reynolds bore the title of principle mathematician and chief of the section of triangulation, division of geodesy, U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey, which means to a majority of his fellow-citizens, it is safe to say, precisely nothing. If he had been a Senator, or a member of the House of Representatives, everyone would have understood that he was a man in public life and his death would have been regarded as having some effect on the course of public affairs.

Yet it is probable that one might pick out a whole platoon of Representatives and add a squad of Senators all of whom together have performed less public service than did this scientist. The measure of his work is to consider what would have followed had it not been done, or had it been done incompetently. Among the possible results of bad work in the position he held are countless shipwrecks, the disruption of air traffic, and the disablement of harbors….

In: “The Buzzard,” Vol. IX, p. 2. May 14, 1942.

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

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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