Albert Reymann, engineer

Retired Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab mechanical engineer helped create global positioning systems

  • Albert Reymann
Albert Reymann (Baltimore Sun )
January 07, 2012|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Albert C. Reymann, a retired Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory mechanical engineer who led a team that helped create the forerunner of the global navigation and positioning systems in use today, died Monday of heart disease at Gilchrist Center Howard County. The longtime Catonsville resident was 85.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Homestead Street near Clifton Park, he was the son of Hildebert Reymann, a Revere Copper and Brass supervisor, and Helen Reymann, a homemaker. He attended St. Bernard School and was a 1944 Polytechnic Institute graduate.

Days after his high school graduation, he joined the Army Corps of Engineers and served in Egypt during World War II. He left the service as a lieutenant and later told friends that because he was one of 10 children raised in a Baltimore rowhouse, his years in the Army were the first time he had a room of his own.

He earned a degree in mechanical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University in 1949 and was called back to military service during the Korean War.

Mr. Reymann joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where he was a member of the principal staff and supervised about 40 engineers and scientists. He initially worked in an old garage in Silver Spring and later moved to a metal-sided building near Laurel.

"Al was a good engineer, but he was an excellent manager because he was such a people person," said Joseph Butler, a friend and colleague who lives in Ellicott City. "He would often give you an assignment that would put you in the position where you questioned whether you could personally handle it. But Al wanted you to expand your horizons."

In his 38 years at the lab, Mr. Reymann worked closely with the Navy and NASA. He and his unit worked to create prototype satellites.

"Our job was to provide the satellite structure," said Mr. Butler. "It had to be lightweight but of maximum strength to support the instruments inside."

Mr. Reymann worked on the Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite, the Defense Mapping Agency Satellite and pieces of solar astronomy spacecraft.

Mr. Reymann also worked on Navy contracts for early global navigational systems.

"The Navy was then identifying islands that had been misidentified on existing maps," Mr. Butler said of the work done at the lab many years ago. "We all saw the potential it held for today's global positioning systems."

In the 1970s, Mr. Reymann also was a researcher and mechanical engineer for Seasat, a satellite constructed for the remote sensing of the Earth's oceans.

"We had a great time going to work each day," said Mr. Butler. "Al was unique. He was a great believer in young talent."

His friend described him as an "old school" engineer who was trained in the use of a slide rule. "He hated computers," Mr. Butler said. "And he was rarely sick or took a day off, except for the first two weeks of June, which without fail he spent in Ocean City with his family."

Mr. Reymann lived for many years on Newburg Avenue in Catonsville and was a member of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church.

"My father loved doing home improvements, helping others, fishing and crabbing, golfing, coaching and being a Little League umpire," said Regina Anne Reymann Chell of Ellicott City. "He and Mom were great dance partners. They would put on a record of 'Stardust' or 'Moon River' and dance around the living and dining room."

A Mass was offered Saturday at the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection.

Other survivors include three sons, Thomas Reymann and David Reymann, both of Catonsville, and Paul Reymann of Harwood; two other daughters, Mary Kay Burch and Teresa Reymann, both of Catonsville; three sisters, Anna Hergenroeder, Helen Schroeter and Phyllis Wehlan, all of Towson; and 15 grandchildren. His wife of 61 years, the former Helen Regina Long, died in 2010.

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