EDWARD GILBERT

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GILBERT EDWARD GILBERT (Age 88) Died of pneumonia, October 27, 2012 at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Frederick, MD. Mr. Gilbert's pioneering work was in the fields of both mechanical and nuclear engineering. Graduating with his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943, he immediately went to work for the Westinghouse Aviation Turbine Division as a design and test engineer on the first three American designed jet propulsion engines. Originally he worked on the design of the main shaft lubrication and bearing systems, the oil supply tank (to provide oil regardless of the airplane's altitude, orientation, and G-loading), and the gas turbine's oil filter and cooler. His design of the oil supply tank resulted in two U.S. patents for Westinghouse. Mr. Gilbert was then assigned to the design of the last two stages of the jet-engine compressor blades, and both of the turbine blades. The two turbine blades designs were made from Hastalloy B, (which had never before been used at such high loads and temperatures.) He organized a new testing program at the Westinghouse Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh to determine the tensile strength, creep rate, and damping factor for this turbine blade material in 100 F increments from 1000 F to 1600 F. After getting his Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in June 1948, he began his thirty-one year career as a Civil Servant. Initially, Mr. Gilbert worked on a new class of high speed gas turbine powered submarine for the U.S. Navy Department in Washington, DC. This work was based on up-grading the WWII German "Walther" submarine design for higher submerged speeds and greater operational range. Then, based on his submarine design and testing experience for the Bureau of Ships, which had been undertaken at the David Taylor Model Basin at Carderock, MD, he was sent to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1950 to attend for one year the first course ever given in nuclear engineering. Having participated in the hull design tests at the David Taylor Model Basin, and on the design of the propulsion machinery, he was then assigned as the Program Manager for the Propulsion System Design and Machinery Arrangement for the first two Nuclear Submarine classes, the Nautilus (USSN575) and the Seawolf (USSN591). The design and related engineering work for the propulsion system was initially done under civilian leadership. Mr. Gilbert was then assigned to write a design history on both of these new submarines. Next, Mr. Gilbert transferred to the Amphibious Vehicles Division of the Bureau of Ships where in 1953; he became Program Manager for the first post-WW II classes of amphibious vehicles (LVTs) used by the U.S. Marine Corps. By then, the basic hull, track, power train and suspension system had already been tested and approved; so Mr. Gilbert's work on the LVT's was the conversion of the basic troop carriers into (5-types) classes of "special purpose" vehicles to support the troops both during and after their amphibious landings. In 1960, he became Program Manager developing portable, and mobile nuclear reactors while working for a Division of the Army Nuclear Power Program located at Germantown, Md. Under Mr. Gilbert's direction multiple nuclear reactors (rated up to 30,000-KW electrical output) were designed, built and operated first at the early warning DEW-LINE stations 100-miles out of Thule, Greenland (Camp Century), another on Sundance Peak in Wyoming as the major navigational beacon for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and later used for navigational guidance for our long range missiles sited in underground silos in Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota; another was placed at our military base at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, where it went over 18-years without an unscheduled shutdown. He transferred in 1964 to the Nuclear Safety Division as Program Design Director on the Loss of Fluid Test facility (LOFT) in Idaho. Under his direction this $50-M facility was completed in about 2-years and within the planned budget and time schedule. Over a dozen tests were run in this facility to determine the effectiveness of various countermeasures following a Nuclear Core meltdown. As a result of the LOFT testing facility some changes were made to then contemporary and later water-cooled nuclear power plant designs. In 1968 he was transferred to be the Program Director for the Sodium Pump Test Facility (SPTF) at Santa Susanna, California, and the design and construction of its supporting disassembly and repair facilities. These facilities required remotely operated and heavily shielded equipment for components being tested before and after the operation of the first US Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR). Although SPTF and associated program were stopped (and mothballed) by Congressional budget directives in 1974, they were reopened in 1985 and operated for the next 10-years under contract for the Japanese LMFBR program. Payments by the Japanese completely covered the capital costs as well as the operating costs of this entire facility. In 1973, Mr. Gilbert was awarded the Distinguished Service Certificate in the US Energy Department. He continued working as Program Manager on various Nuclear Safety Programs including the "Rasmussen Safety Study" published in 1975. From 1975 until 1979 Mr. Gilbert was assigned to be the Program Manager for the Gas Cooled Fast Breeder Reactor (GCFBR). After the "Three Mile Island" core meltdown (south of Harrisburg) in 1979, Congress withdrew funding for all Nuclear power plants in the US. Finding nothing of equal interest compared to the GCFBR in the newly-created US Energy Department He applied for and received his retirement in 1979. Mr. Gilbert enjoyed his retirement by reading, traveling and visiting with family and friends. His favorite trip was his annual autumn foliage pilgrimage to New England. He often spent several summer months in Europe, usually in England and France. He also volunteered for 19 years as a docent at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He maintained an active correspondence with friends throughout his life. Edward Gilbert, the second of two sons born to Carl and Bertha Gilbert, is survived by his loving and devoted wife, Mary Lou Doyle (Terpstra); his loving daughter, Sally June Sorbello and son-in-Law, Lynn Sorbello; his grandsons, Russell and Daniel Sorbello and his wife's sons, Nathan and Aaron Wilson, their wives, Jenny and Claudia, and Jenny's children Evan and Ava Lintz. He was preceded in death by his brother, Harald Gilbert and his former wife, Joan Blakelock Gilbert. . His many friends and family members love him and remember him with great fondness for all the affection, wisdom, humor and warmth he brought into their lives. Services previously held.His many friends and family members love him and remember him with great fondness for all the affection, wisdom, humor and warmth he brought into their lives. Services previously held.

Published in The Washington Post on Nov. 20, 2012
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