Walter Samuel McAfee

born: Sept.. 2, 1914; died Feb. 18, 1995

birthplace: Ore City, Texas

Pre-doctorate education: B.S. (1934) MathematicsWiley College; M.S. (1937) Physics Ohio State University in 1937

Doctorate: Ph.D. Physics (1949) Cornell University

area: meson production in nuclear collisions
later: Radio Astronomy

In 1912 Susie Johnson took the examination for Texas teacher's certification. She passed every part,but her spelling paper was mysterously lost. Her father was told that if he paid $50 (2 months salary then), the paper could be found. Outraged, he refused to pay and Susie could not be a teacher. She married McAfee, a carpemter-farmer and had nine children. "She taught us," said her son Walter McAfee. Six of her children obtained math or math related degrees, while the two others got degrees in chemistry.


Walter McAfee, born on Sept.. 2, 1914, in Ore City, Texas, attended public schools in Marshall, Texas, graduating high school with honors. He enrolled in Wiley College (Texas) where, in 1934, he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics. In 1937 he earned a Master of Science in Physics from Ohio State University. McAfee earned a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University in 1949.


During World War II, Walter McAfee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corp Engineering Laboratories. There he distinguished himself in electromagnetism and radar. He was a member of the Project Diana team that was responsible for the first lunar radar echo experiments in 1946. The goal of Project Diana was to determine if a high frequency radio signal, could penetrate the outer atmosphere of the earth. The solution was to send a radar signal to the moon and bounce it back to earth. For this they needed an accurate computation of the velocity of a position on the moon relative to a position on the earth. Dr. McAfee performed the calculations, and on Jan. 10, 1946, the experiment was successfully conducted. Unfortunately, McAfee's contributions to Project Diana (even his name) were not mentioned in news reports about the experiment.

Dr. Walter McAfee was a scientific advisor to the U.S. Arm Electronics Research and Development Command. For 42 years he worked for the government at New Jersey''s Fort Monmouth including service as director of a NATO study on surveillance and target acquisition. He was also a scientific advisor to the U.S. Arm Electronics Research and Development Command.    He concurrently lectured in atomic and nuclear physic and solid state electronics at Monmouth College from 1958 to 1975.


Dr. McAfee was awarded an honorary doctorate in science from Monmouth University in 1958, and the Steven's Award from Steven's Institute of Technology in 1985. Dr. McAfee received the Rosenwald Fellowship in Nuclear Physics and the Secretary of the Army Fellowship, presented by President Eisenhower at a White House ceremony.  The fellowship enabled McAfee to study radio astronomy for two years at Harvard University. Dr. McAfee is listed in "American Men and Women of Science," "Who's Who in the East," and "Who's Who Black Americans. "


In 1935, McAfee met Viola in Columbus Ohio. In 1941 Walter and Viola married arid subsequently moved to South Belmar, New Jersey. Just prior to retirement, McAfee contracted glaucoma. In time he became blind. He died from cancer on February 18, 1995.

In the photo on the right sitsViola McAfee [left], McAfee's daughters, Mercedes McAfee and Marsha Ann Bera-Morris. They are attending a ceremony in honor of the dedication of a Fort Monmouth building, the McAfee Center, to her late husband, Dr. Walter Samuel McAfee. The building houses the Information and lntelligence Electronic Warfare Directorate of CECOM's Research,  Development end Engineering.

references: The African American Presence in Physics, Ronald Mickens, ed.; The Coast Star July 31, 1997 p.7; The Coast Star September 21, 2000 p.8; Math Power, Patricia Kenschaft;

We have immeasurable help from Dr. McAfee's great-niece, Ms. Lesia Smith-Linton, and his nieces Yvonne Williams Boyd and Wanda McAfee

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State University of New York at Buffalo

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