Robert Harmon Beaver was born in Centralia, Illinois, on February 5, 1921, son of R. L. and Nellie (Harmon) Beaver. He attended the University of Illinois for a year before his appointment to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, which he entered on June 29, 1939. He was graduated and commissioned Ensign on June 19, 1942 (accelerated course, due to wartime emergency advanced to the rank of Captain, to date from September 1, 1962.
After graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1942, he was assigned to the USS Charles F. Hughes, in which he served until April 1944, first in communication, later as First Lieutenant, with collateral duty as Radar and Torpedo Officer. In that destroyer, he participated in the Anzio-Nettuno advanced landings and in the operations of Convoy UC-1 in February 1943. He had flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, between May 1944 and April 1945, and when designated Naval Aviator, was assigned to Bombing Squadron FIVE, as Executive Officer. He served in that capacity throughout the remaining months of World War II, and until June 1947.
He returned to Annapolis for instruction in Ordnance Engineering (Aviation) at the Naval Postgraduate School, continuing the course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, from which he received the degree of Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in June 1950. During the six months to follow, he had night fighter training with Fleet All Weather Training Unit, Atlantic, and in January 1951, reported as Fire Control Officer at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, where he served until August 1953.
In August 1953, he began a tour of duty at the Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, Pennsylvania, as Tactical Requirements Officer in the Armament Laboratory. In July 1956, he was transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, as Project Officer in the Guided Missiles Division, where he remained until July 1959. A year of instruction at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, was followed by duty on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, US Atlantic Fleet, with Headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. In August 1963 he became Assistant Astronautics Programs Officer in the Bureau of Naval Weapons, Navy Department, Washington, DC, and in August 1964 was assigned to the Office of Naval Material, Navy Department. Returning to the bureau of Naval Weapons in August 1965, he joined the Staff of the Surface Missile Systems Project.
Captain Beaver has the American Defense Service Medal, with star; American Campaign Medal, with two stars; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, with two stars; World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal.
Captain Beaver is a member of Sigma Xi, National Honorary Scientific Society, and Gamma Alpha Rho, National Honorary Aeronautical Engineering Society