Albert Abraham Michelson was born 19 December 1852 at Strelno, Poland. At an early age, he and his parents emmigrated to the United States, where they settled in San Francisco. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy 28 June 1869 and graduated 1873.
After service on the North Atlantic Station in Worcester and Constellation, Michelson then returned to the academy as instructor of physics and chemistry. There he prepared a paper “On a Method of Measuring the Velocity of Light” which won him worldwide recognition.
Michelson was commissioned master 5 March 1879, and in 1880 was given leave of absence for advanced studies in Europe. He resigned from the Navy 30 September 1881 to continue intensive study of physics. In 1907, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics, the first American to be so honored. In the course of his research he received 11 honorary degrees from American and European universities, and numerous medals awarded for scientific achievement.
He returned to the naval service as a lieutenant commander in Reserve status, and served in the Bureau of Ordnance during the closing months of World War I. Appointed commander in the Reserve in May 1919, he was recalled briefly to active duty in the 9th Naval District. Commander Michelson was released from the Navy 30 September 1921, and after another decade of significant research into the properties of light, died 9 May 1931 in Pasadena, Calif.
(AGS‑23: dp. 13,050 (f.); l. 455'; b. 62'; d. 23'; s. 16 k.; cpl. 106; a. none; cl. Bowditch)
Michelson (AGS‑23) was laid down 5 May 1944 under Maritime Commission contract as Joliet Victory by Oregon Shipbuilding Corp., Portland, Oreg.; launched 14 June 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Arthur O. Janke; and delivered 7 July 1944.
The ship was under the control of the Maritime Commission from 1944 to 1950 and the Maritime Administration from 1950 to 1958. Joliet Victory was reactivated from the James River, Va., Maritime Administration Reserve Fleet 8 February 1958 and delivered to the Navy Department at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for conversion.
Renamed and classified Michelson (AGS‑23) 8 August 1957 the ship was converted by Charleston, S.C., Naval Shipyard, and placed in service 15 December 1958 under the operational control of MSTS Atlantic as USNS Michelson (AGS‑23). With her scientific staff embarked, Michelson conducted oceanographic survey work for the Hydrographic Office in the Atlantic until 1964.
In mid‑January 1965, while underway from San Francisco to Yokahama, Michelson received distress signals from SS Grand, a Nationalist Chinese merchant ship that was breaking up in heavy seas off the Japanese coast. The survey ship proceeded to the scene immediately and swimmers from her crew rescued six survivors, despite the 12‑foot seas.
Michelson continues to collect data on hydrographic conditions and the earth's magnetic field in the western Pacific into 1969.