Robert John Adams, 88, radar expert, mountaineer

December 13, 2003

Robert John Adams, an expert on radar antennas who worked for more than three decades at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, died of Parkinson's disease Dec. 5 at his Hamilton home. He was 88.

Dr. Adams was born and raised in Solon, Iowa, and earned his bachelor's degree in physics in 1936 from the State University of Iowa. In 1941, he earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin.

After working two years in the physics laboratory at Corning Glass Works in Corning, N.Y., Dr. Adams joined the naval research facility's radar branch as head of the antenna section. Much of his work was devoted to the development of advanced radar systems and radar antennas used aboard ships and airplanes.

"A great deal of his work was of a classified nature," said a son, Robert N. Adams of Hamilton.

Dr. Adams later headed the laboratory's Search Radar Branch and held three patents. He retired in 1976 but worked as a consultant for several years. He was awarded the Navy Meritorious Civilian Award in 1945 and 1970.

Dr. Adams earned his pilot's license in 1945 and enjoyed flying his family on cross-country trips. One of the early planes he owned was an Army surplus open-cockpit tandem L-2B, and his son recalled that "we often flew at about 100 feet and scattered chickens and other barnyard fowl as we flew over them."

After giving up flying in the early 1970s, Dr. Adams became an avid mountaineer, rock climber and spelunker. He climbed the Tetons in Wyoming, San Juan Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico, and the Dolomites in Switzerland and Italy. He also liked playing his trombone and jogging.

A longtime resident of Oxon Hill before moving to Hamilton in 1988, Dr. Adams was a communicant of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Piscataway.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

In addition to his son, Dr. Adams is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Catherine F. Groshong; another son, John B. Adams of Palatine, Ill.; three grandchildren; and three great-grandsons.

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