National Academies Press: OpenBook

Memorial Tributes: Volume 3 (1989)

Chapter: Edward C. Wells

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Suggested Citation:"Edward C. Wells." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
Page 350
Suggested Citation:"Edward C. Wells." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
Page 351
Suggested Citation:"Edward C. Wells." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
Page 352
Suggested Citation:"Edward C. Wells." National Academy of Engineering. 1989. Memorial Tributes: Volume 3. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1384.
Page 353

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EDWARD C. WELLS 1910-1986 BY EDWARD H. HEINEMANN EDWARD C. WELLS was one of the last of the "old time engi- neers." He was truly a chief engineer who understood all the parts of an airplane and usually conceived and directed the design of the entire airplane himself. Because we were approximately the same age and had sim- ilar responsibilities at two competing companies, the Boeing Company anct Douglas Aircraft, ~ came to know Ec] and his accomplishments very well and to respect his work greatly. He was an excellent engineer, ant! under his direction, many of the worId's finest airplanes were born. Among them were the Boeing B-17, B-29, B-47, and B-52, as well as the com- mercial models 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, and 767. Mr. Wells began his career with Boeing in 193 I. He retired as a senior vice-presiclent in 1972, but continued as a com- pany consultant and member of the board of directors until 1978, when he resigner! from the board. As assistant project engineer on the 299 (the forerunner of the B- ~ 7), Mr. Wells was responsible for the wing flap sys- tem, the largest ever consiclerect until that time. Sophisti- catecI flap systems have been a trademark of Boeing air- planes for forty-five years, beginning with the 299 in 1934. Mr. Wells received fifteen patents for inventions, most of them for innovations in mechanical and flight systems. For example, he led the engineering efforts that made the B-29 351

352 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES the outstanding bomber of its day. The B-29's basic engineer- ing advances included pressurized body (first introducer! on Boeing's 307 Stratoliner in 1938), centralized fire control, power turrets, and dramatic increases in bomb load capacity and effective range. WelIs was made chief of Boeing's Preliminary Design Unit in ~ 936 and chief project engineer in charge of military proj- ects in ~ 938. In ~ 939 he became assistant chief engineer, ant! in 1943 he was named chief engineer. He became vice- presiclent ant] chief engineer in 1948. In 1961 Mr. WelIs was named vice-president anct general manager of the Military Aircraft Systems Division. This di- vision ant! the Transport Division were merged to become the Airplane Division in 1963. He became vice-president for product development in 1966. Ect Wells was wiclely recognizes! and honored for his work in aviation. In 1942 he received the Lawrence Sperry Awarct from the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences for "out- stancling contributions to the art of airplane design." He was named "Young Man of the Year" by the Seattle Junior Cham- ber of Commerce in 1943, and in 1944 he receiver! the Faw- cett Aviation Award for "the greatest single contribution for the scientific advancement of aviation" during the year. During World War Il. Mr. Wells was a consultant to the secretary of war. Later, he was a member of the Research and Technology Advisory Council for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a member of the President's Spe- cial Task Force on Transportation, ancT a member of the De- fense Science Board. In 1978, because of his significant con- tributions to aeronautics, Mr. Wells was elected an Elder Statesman of Aviation by the National Aeronautics Associa- tion. Born in 1910 in Boise, Idaho, Mr. Wells graduated with "great clistinction" and Phi Beta Kappa honors from Stan- ford University's Engineering School in ~ 93 ~ . He received an honorary (loctor of laws (legree from the University of Port- lanc! in 1946 ant! an honorary (1octor of science degree from

EDWARD C. WELLS 353 WilIamette University in 1953. He was a life member of the WilIamette University board of trustees. During the 1969-1970 academic year, Mr. Wells took a partial leave from Boeing to serve as a visiting professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University. He served on advisory boards for Stanford, the University of Washington, and the University of California at Los Angeles. Mr. Wells was elected to membership in the National AcacI- emy of Engineering in 1967. He was also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the American Astronautical So- ciety; he was an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AlAA). He was president of AlANs predecessor organization, the Institute of the Aero- nautical Sciences, in 1958. He receiver! the Daniel Guggenheim Medal in 1980 for his "outstanding contributions in the design and production of some of the worIct's most famous commercial and military aircraft." In 1981 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Automotive Engineers "for exceptional contributions to the advancement of automotive technology." In 1985 he received the Tony Janus Award in recognition of his "outstanding contributions to the clevelopment of complex aerospace sys- tems and significant accomplishments in the design and pro- cluction of a long line of the worId's most famous military and commercial aircraft." Mr. Wells died on July I, 1986, and is survived by his wife Dorothy; a daughter, Mrs. William (Laurie) Tull of Etna, California; a son, Edward E. WelIs of Aurora, Colorado; two grandsons, John and Eric Benjamin; and two sisters, Mrs. William Geer of Bellevue, Washington, and Mrs. William Ketteringham of Sun City, California.

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