University of Texas
Chester Meek McKinney
January 29, 1920–January 21, 2017

 

 

Chester Meek McKinney


Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award - 2004

Chester M. McKinney

CHESTER MCKINNEY was born January 29, 1920, in the small town of Cooper, Texas, about 80 miles northeast of Dallas. He lived there until he left to attend college at East Texas State Teacher's College in 1937, where his childhood interest in radio led him to major in physics. He earned his BS degree in 1941, and returned to Cooper to teach high school science courses. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force, and because of his physics background and interest in radio, he was trained as a radar officer, attending military schools at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in India, China, and Tinian, leaving the service at the end of the war with the rank of captain.

After World War II, he returned to Texas and entered graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin in the physics department. He also accepted a graduate student position at a new university laboratory that had been established at UT called the Defense Research Laboratory (DRL). DRL would later become the current Applied Research Laboratories (ARL:UT). This lab was founded by Paul Boner, a UT physics professor who had been Associate Director at the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory (HUSL) during the war. Chester was the first graduate student hired by DRL. Although DRL was founded by an acoustician, and staffed by a number of researchers who had been at HUSL, it did not initially have an acoustics program, focusing instead on electromagnetics, radar, and aeronautics, which matched well with Chester's experience and interests. Chester worked under Bob Watson during his MA program, and under Claude Horton for his PhD. He was the first graduate student under both of these distinguished professors. His graduate research was in electromagnetics. His master's thesis (1947) described a reciprocity method of antenna calibration, and his dissertation (1950) was on dielectric waveguides and radiators. After completing his graduate work, he accepted a faculty position at Texas Technological College, where he continued his research in electromagnetics until 1953, when he decided to return to DRL.

Chester's mentor throughout the early years of his career at DRL was Richard Lane, a prominent member of the Acoustical Society who had also been on the research staff at HUSL, and who is credited with initiating DRL's acoustics programs in 1949. Chester's career focus had been primarily on electromagnetics, however, his initial assignments on returning to DRL were to begin work on developing a program in mine countermeasures sonar, and to become an active member of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). He was quite successful on both counts. The high-frequency acoustics program he founded 50 years ago and led through its early years continues to be among the nation's leading sonar technology programs. He joined the ASA in 1953, was elected a Fellow 1958, and his contributions are now being recognized with the Society's highest award. He has published 14 papers in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), and presented 15 papers at ASA meetings. If Richard were with us today, he would be pleased.

Chester's technical contributions in acoustics are in areas relating to high frequency, high resolution sonars used to find and classify mines, and to accomplish a variety of other tasks from bottom mapping to swimmer detection. In the early days of mine countermeasures sonar work at DRL, Chester began to focus on the problem of classification to reduce the number of target-like returns to a manageable quantity.

His strong background in classical physics led him toward physical clues that could be measured through the use of high spatial resolution. He justified the use of very high resolution and demonstrated its feasibility through the development of research tools for experimentation. He also led efforts to develop a physical understanding of target scattering as a basis for classification. In 1954, he invented a second sweep mixing technique which made it possible to use continuous transmission frequency modulated (CTFM) sonar for high resolution classification as well as target detection. (John David Gavenda, a graduate student at the time, was a co-inventor on this project.—Mel Oakes) Chester also recognized the importance of the ocean acoustic environment on high resolution sonar. One of his best-known experimental efforts is the collection of ocean bottom backscattering data which he published with C.D. Anderson in 1964. These data are still relevant and used extensively by those involved in high resolution sonar design. Chester's work was often in the category of pioneering research that led to important work by others. For example, the body of work in naval mine-related structural acoustics had its genesis in a JASA paper he published in 1961 with Garland Barnard, "Scattering of Acoustic Energy by Solid and Air Filled Cylinders in Water," subsequently included in Bruce Lindsay's Benchmark Papers in Acoustics series.

For many years, Chester was regarded by the U.S. Navy's R&D establishment as the voice of the mine countermeasures community through his service on senior advisory groups such as the Naval Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. Because of these activities and his sonar development work at ARL:UT, it is safe to say that Chester's leadership played a significant role in establishing the basis for the Navy's current capability in mine countermeasures.

Chester's long service to the ASA is noteworthy for a number of contributions that influenced its development and continue to be included in its operation today. He was a charter member of the Underwater Acoustics Technical Committee when it was formed in 1956, and is listed as its first chairman. He undertook the organization of special sessions, and developed a master list of organizations in the U.S. and Canada involved in underwater acoustics, notifying each organization of upcoming special sessions to encourage attendance and to generate a following. These activities helped to cement the role of the ASA in underwater acoustics, and encouraged many working in the field to feel that the ASA was the professional home for their activities. Subsequently, during his tenure as Vice President (1984–85) and President (1987–88), he established three committees that continue today: Archives, Tutorials, and Public Relations. He also served on the Executive Council (1974–77), the Medals and Awards Committee (1979–83), the Long Range Planning Committee (1991–94), and on the Nominating Committee (1984, 1988, and 1995). In 1989, he proposed that a census of acousticians be undertaken, chaired the resulting ad hoc committee, helped collect and organize the data, and published the results in JASA. Chester was involved in organizing all six of the Austin ASA meetings, and served as local chairman for the fall 1975 meeting. At that meeting, he proposed and implemented four changes to the meeting format that continue to be used today. Those were the use of poster sessions, the paper copying service, the plenary sessions for presentations and awards, and the Tuesday and Thursday evening socials.

These aspects of Chester's career would be noteworthy under any circumstances; however, they are even more impressive because most were accomplished during a period when Chester was also leading ARL:UT through its formative years. The foundation that Chester created at ARL:UT through wise administrative policies and far-sighted operating philosophy have served the lab well. They continue to make it a vibrant organization at which a large number of acousticians began their careers. In recognition of his leadership, one of the buildings at ARL:UT is officially designed as the McKinney Wing. His career achievements have also been recognized with various other awards, including the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of Acoustics (UK).

There are a variety of facets in Chester's career that we have not covered here; however, we should not fail to mention his marriage of 56 years to Linda, their two daughters, Margaret McKinney and Kem Ward, and five grandchildren. Linda attends most ASA meetings and, as an active participant in the accompanying persons program, she is one of Chester's finest contributions to the Society.

Chester has provided sagacious and insightful leadership in every endeavor to which he has committed throughout his career. It is difficult to say whether his most significant accomplishments were as an administrator or as a researcher, but it is clear that his contributions in both realms have set a high standard for others to follow. Chester's beneficial influence on the Acoustical Society, on the Navy's high resolution sonar programs, and on ARL has endured over several decades, and shows little sign of fading. All three are much the better for his having altered his career path back in 1953.

Clark S. Penrod
Thomas G. Muir
Ralph R. Goodman
David T. Blackstock

UT Austin to dedicate McKinney Wing of the Applied Research Laboratories
Nov. 6, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas—A formal dedication ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 9) to mark the naming of the McKinney Wing of the Applied Research Laboratories (ARL). ARL is located at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of The University of Texas at Austin, 10100 Burnet Road.

Former ARL director, Dr. Chester McKinney and his wife, Linda, will be honored at the event and will be joined by family members, friends and colleagues. UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner and members of The University of Texas System Board of Regents will preside. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony and following reception.

McKinney served as the ARL director from 1965 until his retirement in 1980, leading and overseeing a number of high-profile projects. Many of the projects related to national defense. McKinney was instrumental in establishing the high-resolution sonar program that remains one of the cornerstones of ARL research in acoustics today.

"Chester McKinney's administrative principles continue to guide the center," said Dr. Clark S. Penrod, ARL's executive director. "He fostered an atmosphere in which the laboratories became known for technical excellence and for providing cost-effective solutions to some of the military's most difficult problems."

McKinney, a native of Cooper, Texas, was born Jan. 29, 1920. After his discharge from the U.S. Army Air Corps as a captain in 1946, he worked at the laboratories toward two degrees in physics, an M.S. in 1947 and a Ph.D. 1950. He specialized in radar and sonar research, and his later work was primarily in the field of underwater acoustics. Since retiring from his director's post, he continues to serve as a consultant to ARL.

"We are all in debt to Dr. McKinney for his guiding hand in the Applied Research Laboratories' groundbreaking research," said Faulkner. "I'm delighted to be able to honor him and Mrs. McKinney in this most appropriate way."

In the past 20 years, McKinney has served on several advisory committees to the U.S. Navy, including the Mine Advisory Committee and the Naval Studies Board. He also has served on the Underwater Sound Advisory Group and other similar groups.

McKinney is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and served a term as its president. In 1983-84, he served as a liaison scientist with the Office of Naval Research in London. He is an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Acoustics.

Outline for Talk At Town and Gown club meeting on April 9, 2009

The Origins of Some Early Austin High-Tech Organizations
By Chester McKinney

I. Introduction
1. Austin used to depend largely on state government and the University of Texas for its economy. Starting about 1967 was the beginning of a boom in high-tech industry. Early ones were IBM, TI, 3M, Motorola, and "home-grown" Tracor.

2. Now there are 3000 high-tech companies with 100,000 employees. High-tech is a major economic factor, with Austin aptly called "Silicon Hills".

3. I am going to talk about four organizations, three of which preceded the boom, with emphasis on how they got started and on the key
individuals. Because of time limit, I have chosen those from a larger group, because I have found these interesting examples, and I
personally knew all the individuals that I will mention.

II. S. Leroy Brown and his Multi-Harmonograph computer
1. Born 1881 - Died 1966 at age 85. Professor of Physics 1913-1954. Department Chairman for many years. Special field - EM waves and radio. Harmonic synthesis and analysis. Wonderful person. My mentor. My office (formerly Boner's) was next to his.

2. Late 1930's, Brown invented/built a mechanical harmonic synthesizer, 15 feet long by 7 feet high by 2 feet wide. Weighed one ton. As a harmonic synthesizer, probably would not have generated much interest, but Lucien LaCoste, an assistant professor of physics suggested how the machine could be used to solve certain math equations (polynomials) by converting the algebraic equation into a harmonic series. This got lots of publicity in newspapers and scientific journals. Fox Movietone News sent a crew to Austin to film it. Brown, UT, and Austin got a lot of good publicity. I read about this wonderful computer in the Dallas Morning News. (about 7 years later, I worked on it for research, and published one related paper).

3. The computer could solve certain equations, but it had no future. It was big, heavy, and was expensive to build. It was analog. It was not
highly accurate (three significant figures). It required a lot of calculating to translate the polynomial into a harmonic series, which made it slow overall. It could not compete with the digital electronic computers under development in the post-WW2 period. But several graduate students used it for their MA and PhD degrees. I have included it in my talk because it was important in the history of computers and because it brought good publicity to UT and Austin. The first ONR contract at UT (1947) supported the work on this device. The machine remained in the physics building for 30 years before ending up in the junk pile.

Ill. Lucien Jean Baptiste LaCoste & the Gravity Meter.
Born 1908-Died 1995 at age 87.

1. LaCoste grew up in San Antonio. Excellent tennis player. Came to UT because of its excellent tennis program. Probably came in 1926. Varsity letter 3 years. Wilmer Allison, was the star here, # 1 in US, Davis Cup player, etc. LaCoste was very excited when he won a match against Wilmer.

2. At UT, he became interested in physics. BS in 1931, MA in 1933, PHD in 1933. Considered a brilliant student. In 1932, in Romberg's class in mechanics, he was given the assignment to design a long-period seismograph. Reinvented a conventional design. Thought he could do better. In two weeks, invented a zero-length spring seismometer (and gravity meter). He and Romberg built one. It was more sensitive by an order of magnitude than any they had seen. LaCoste published a paper on zero-length instruments in a physics journal. This was very important.

3. At Cal Tech 1933-35 (two years), to learn quantum mechanics under Linus Pauling (and Oppenheimer). Published a paper.

4. Returned to UT as assistant professor of physics. For next 4 years, he and Romberg worked on zero-length spring gravity meter and
seismograph. It achieved an accuracy of one part in one hundred million (108). Probably three orders of magnitude better than competitors. Used quartz fiber for spring and inverted it. LaCoste always made the spring. One thousand second period. Could not patent it because he had published a paper several years earlier.

5. In summer of 1939, LaCoste and Romberg took leave from UT in order to devote full time to developing this gravity meter into a
practical device that could be used in the field for surveys. Oil companies were the primary (only) customers. It took them nearly a year to accomplish this. Usually they leased their meters. The first production unit weighed about 100 pounds and required two people to carry it and set up. By 1942, the size had been reduced so that one person could handle it. Today, some weigh only 15 pounds. Most of the work was done in the basement of Romberg's home. Typically, LaCoste would build the meter in the basement, and Romberg, in the kitchen, would work with adjustments until it had achieved the required sensitivity. Continued to make major improvements. In just 8 months of operation, made a profit of $400,000. In first full year, (1941) made one million dollars. Fantastic!

6. Pearl Harbor, December 1941. Business essentially went to zero.

7. LaCoste went to Radiation Lab at MIT for war work.

8. In 1942, UT got NDRC contract to test and improve the remotely controlled machine guns on B-29 aircraft. LaCoste returned to UT as
technical director. Success due to LaCoste. Texas Tester, etc. Tape controlled milling machine. On VJ Day, LaCoste resigned and
returned to his gravity meters.

9. In the post-war period, LaCoste made major improvements in size reduction, ruggedness, reliability, and ease of operation. He made major inventions so that the basic meter could be used on mobile platforms, such as aircraft, helicopters, surface ships, submarines, and land vehicles. He also developed a unit that could be used in oil well boreholes where the temperatures could be 100 degrees C or higher. Most experts in the field considered the successful developments for these applications to be impossible, but LaCoste proved them wrong. For more than 60 years, the LaCoste-Romberg gravity meters were, hands-down, the best in the world. Everyone I have talked to about LaCoste (or read about him) always said he was a genius. The smartest person they had ever known. His contributions are hard to
believe. The company always stayed small with few employees and modest quarters.

10. Recently sold to a Canadian company.

11.Current role of ARL: UT.

IV. Tracor-TRA and Textran
(McKinney Tracor files are at Austin History C enter).

1. Truly a spin-off of DRL/ARL: UT Austin.

2. Background. DRL founded 1945. C.P. Boner first director. Navy guided program. As a graduate student (1946-50), I did research work for my MA and PHD degrees at DRL. Richard N. Lane returned to UT around 1946. He was responsible for getting work in underwater
acoustics at DRL (recruited me).

3. Richard Lane and his acoustical consulting work. I helped some. Eastern States Petroleum Company. Richard designed the muffler for
the Cat Cracker. Highly successful. Then, whistle to call foreman to telephone disturbed neighbors. Richard proposed a distributed sound
system. No bidders. Richard offered to do the job. Eastern States said they had to lease it and had to deal with a company. Five-year
contract.

4. Richard formed a company in 1955 - AC&E. Then TRA (1957). Five founders: (Lane, McKinney, McBee, Stanbrough, and Pollard).
Invested $5000. I invested $1250. Richard and I made survey to design the system. Installed. Worked well. McBee climbed telephone
poles. I joined the company out of friendship with Richard, but did not expect it to last.

5. Next Work - Sonasist. Solions (from DRL). $200 thousand from Union Carbide 1957.

6. Textran. 1956 spin-off from DRL. Baltzer, Gres, Smith. Low frequency receiver from DRL. Other work. Good product. Merged with TRA 1962 to form Tracor.

7. Growth rapid. I declined to leave DRL. Acquisition. Rudmose. Went public, fall 1964. $20 per share. 110,000 shares (40: 1 multiplier).
Major growth. Little Fuse. 1975, $100 million in sales. They were in the Fortune 500 and on the NY Stock Exchange.

8. Hard Times. Computers. McBee took over and saved the company (McBee 1920 - 2000).

9. Bobby Inman company (Westmark Systems). Bought company for $900 million in fall 1987. Multiplier (430:1). Went bankrupt in 1989.
Why. Restructured in 1990. Jim Skaggs.

10. Sold to BAE.

11. Over 20 spin-off companies from Tracor.

V. National Instruments, Jim Truchard.

I. A true ARL: UT spin-off. More recent than the others. Founded in 1976 by Jim Truchard, Jeff Kodoslcy, Bill Nowlin, three of the best
ARL employees. Left ARL in 1980. Truchard at ARL for 15 years.

2. Had a product. Interface for easily connecting a variety of instruments and sensors. Moonlight at first. First in Truchard's garage. Self-funded. One employee in 1977 to answer the phones. Rented 600 SF space. Slow growth at first, and then fast. Borrowed $10,000 to buy
computer. No venture capital.

3. Expanded. LabView in 1986. Easy to set up for experiments. Automatic testing systems, virtual instruments. Used Apple graphical interface and later PC computers. Nl hardware and software. In 2003, 16 users had published 16 books on how to use the LabView. First for running experiments, collecting data, and data processing. Output ready for publication. Expanded to include factory monitoring, and production control. Swept the world. Kept improving and expanding. 200 new products per year. In 1981 had sales of 1 million dollars. In 1993, sales of 100 million dollars.

4. At present, 4600 employees (2000 in Austin). 25,000 customers in 90 countries. $660 million in sales in 2006. 41 offices in Europe and
Asia. Present location on MoPac Blvd on 72 acres since 1994. Several buildings. Much of their hardware made in Hungary. Fortune 500
Magazine lists them among 100 Best Companies to Work For. Went public in 1995. Listed on NASDAQ.

5. Truchard has been highly honored and on many committees. At ARL, he did an excellent dissertation. He is 65 years old. The company seems to have done everything right.

VI. Concluding Remarks :
I. Excluding Brown's computer, the companies I have discussed are all quite different types, but they are similar in several respects:

a. All the key founders were highly intelligent, well educated, and had considerable technical experience.

b. From the start, each had a product to market.

c. They started small with little to no payroll, modest or no expensive quarters. There was little risk. There was no venture capital.

d. Each had a UT connection.

McKINNEY, Jr., Chester M. —Obituary
Chester M. McKinney, Jr., age 96, died in Austin on January 21, 2017 - just 8 days short of his 97th birthday. He was born in Cooper, Texas on January 29, 1920 to Chester M. McKinney and Phoebe Hooper McKinney. His father, born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, was the manager of the local cottonseed oil company and his mother, the daughter of a Blossom, Texas, Presbyterian minister, had been a schoolteacher in Hugo, OK, for six years before her marriage.

He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister Lillian Pearce (1993), and a brother Hal McKinney (2006). He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Linda Hooten McKinney (whom he had known since her birth), a daughter, Margaret Phoebe McKinney, a daughter Katherine Elizabeth (McKinney) Ward and her husband David Ward, 5 grandchildren: Travis McKinney, his wife Gabriela Salermo McKinney, Tyson McKinney, Wade McKinney, Cameron Ward, and Hallie Ward; and one great-grandchild - Eva Maria McKinney.

Chester attended public school in Cooper (a small town 80 miles northeast of Dallas), graduating in 1937. He was an Eagle Boy Scout and a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (W5JEP). He then attended East Texas State Teachers College in Commerce, graduating in l94l with a B.S. degree in physics. Following a year of teaching high school science in Cooper and shortly after the December 7, 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the US Army Air Force in March 1942. After attending several service schools (including Harvard and MIT), he served as a radar officer in India, China, and Tinian, as a member of the 58th Bomb Wing, the first B29 wing. After discharge in March 1946 (exit grade captain), he entered graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received an M.A. degree (Physics) in1947 (R.B. Watson, supervisor) and a Ph.D. degree (Physics) in 1950 (C W. Horton, supervisor). The research work for both degrees was conducted at the University's Defense Research Laboratory, where he was a part-time employee. While in graduate school, he married Linda Hooten in 1948.

Following graduate school, he served as a Physics Department faculty member at Texas Technological College in Lubbock from 1950 to 1953, when he returned to Austin where he joined the staff of DRL (now Applied Research Laboratories) as a fulltime research scientist. He remained with the same organization for the rest of his professional career, working largely in the field of underwater acoustics, especially in work relating to the development of high frequency, high resolution sonar. He served as Director of DRL/ARL from 1965 until his retirement in 1980, and has continued as an (unpaid) consultant since except for a tour as Liaison Scientist with the Office of Naval Research in London (1983-84). In 2000, he was honored with the dedication of a new wing to the ARL main building - The McKinney Wing. More recently a new UT graduate fellowship in Acoustics bears his name.

Chester has been an active member of the Acoustical Society of America since 1953, serving in many offices, including that of President (1987-88). In 2004, the ASA presented him with its highest award, the Gold Medal, at its New York meeting. Also an Oral History interview conducted by David Blackstone in 2002 is on file in The American Institute of Physics History of Physics Archive.

In addition to those already mentioned, he received other honors, including the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Services award (1980), the ADPA Bushnell award (1985), and the IEEE Ocean Engineering Society Distinguished Technical Achievement Award (1988). He was an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Acoustics.

Chester greatly enjoyed his long membership in the Town and Gown Club of Austin (since 1983) and served as Secretary-Treasurer for 12 years and later as President.

Chester was the last surviving member of the group of five who formed, in 1955, one of Austin's first high tech companies, Texas Research Associates, a spin-off from DRL, which after merging with Textran (another DRL spin-off) became Tracor.

Chester always felt that he was extremely fortunate to grow up in a small town (with wonderful parents, friends, and teachers), live through the Great Depression, serve in the armed forces in WWII, have a rewarding professional career, and have a wonderful life with his family (wife, Linda, children, Margaret McKinney and Kem Ward, grandchildren, and great-grandchild), as well as a host of other relatives and close friends. He had a good and happy life.

A celebration of Chester's life will be planned for a future date. Following cremation, his ashes will be interned in the family plot in the Oaklawn Cemetery in Cooper, Texas.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Jan. 27 to Jan. 30, 2017
- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesman/obituary.aspx?pid=183733003#sthash.XGYF7iiF.dpuf

In 2002, Professor David Blackstock did an interview with Chester McKinney as part of the American Institute of Physics Oral History Project. The interview was conducted for Acoustical Society of America Technical Committee on Underwater Acoustics and Engineering Acoustics. The link is here: Oral History by Chester McKinney. The interview contains details of his life, Defense Research Laboratory, University of Texas Physics Department and its professors.

Chester Meek McKinney Photo Album

Defense Research Laboratory Missile Guidance Group (Radar Division)
Back L to R: Groves, White, technician, Otto J. "Obie" Baltzer, division head, Walter Kuehne. physicist, Warren Hicks, technician, Clay Johnson, mechanical engineer
Front L to R: Chester McKinney, physics graduate student, Tom Stevens, electronic technician, Frank Seay, physicist, Charles R. Rutherford, physicist, George Brooks, stock room clerk.

Charles P. Boner, Chester McKinney, Krick

Chester McKinney in pink shirt, modern gravity meter on floor in front.

L to R: Linda and Chester McKinney, Patricia Speed Lane. 1994, Richard Lane’s 75th birthday celebration.
Chester was Director of UT Applied Research Laboratory.

Chester McKinney, 1983 David Bushnell Award