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Robert D. Conrad


Robert Dexter Conrad, born on 20 March 1905 in Orange, Mass., graduated from the Naval Academy and was commissioned ensign in June 1927. Following duty in Florida (BB-30), he attended the Postgraduate School at Annapolis and earned a Master of Science degree in naval architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 1932. Then ordered to the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard, he served there until the fall of 1933 when he took a leave of absence to study at Cambridge University, England. Returning to the United States, he served in the Design and Construction Division and in the Research and Information Section of the Bureau of Construction and Repair; then, from August 1937 to June 1939, at the Experimental Model Basin at Washington. Duty at Mare Island followed and in November 1940 he was appointed Assistant Naval Attaché, later Special Naval Observer, at the American Embassy, London.


In January 1942 he returned to Washington. Initially in the Bureau of Ships, he became Head of the Progress and Planning Section in the Office of the Coordinator of Research and Development, Office of the Secretary of the Navy in April and remained in that post until May 1945. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his work during that period. After the end of the war in Europe, Captain Conrad continued his research work through many organizational changes, and was eventually designated Director of the Planning Division, Office of Research and Inventions, later the Office of Naval Research. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his work both during and after the Second World War. Captain Conrad retired in 1947 and died at New York on 26 July 1949.


The Navy's top scientific award, an annual award to the individual making an outstanding contribution in naval research and development bears Captain Conrad's name.


(AGOR - 3: displacement 1,370 (full load); length 208’10”; beam 37’5”; draft 15’2” (mean); speed 12 knots; complement 22; scientific staff 15)


Robert D. Conrad (AGOR-3) was laid down in January 1961 by Gibbs Shipyards, Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.; launched on 26 May 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Edmund B. Taylor; and completed and delivered to the Navy in November 1962.


After delivery, the single screw, diesel-electric, oceanographic research ship, Robert D. Conrad, was assigned to the Lamont Geological Observatory, Columbia University for operation. Complete with wet and dry laboratories, scientific and chart room, photo laboratory, scientific drafting room, a machine shop, two 24” diameter tubes along the centerline for lowering instruments, and a retractable propeller in the bow to maintain position while working with equipment over the side, Robert D. Conrad worked for the Observatory (renamed the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 1993) for her entire career. Much of her work has been in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research and, during the spring and summer of 1963, Submarine Development Group 2 as that group searched the ocean floor for traces of the submarine Thresher (SSN-593). The ship collected gravity and magnetics data on the seafloor; created seismic images of rock layers below the ocean floor; dredged rock samples; took ocean-floor sediment cores (creating what is now a collection of over 13,000 cores); mapped the ocean floor with sonar; and collected water samples to explore ocean currents, temperature, salinity, marine life and other data for a wide range of oceanographic research.

Robert D. Conrad went out of service and was struck from the navy list on 4 October 1989. The old research ship was disposed of through scrapping 27 April 2004.

19 October 2005