George W. Melville : biography
Rear Admiral George Wallace Melville, USN (10 January 1841 – 17 March 1912) was an engineer, Arctic exploration and author. As chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, he headed a time of great expansion, technological progress and change, often in defiance of the conservative element of the Navy hierarchy. He superintended the design of 120 ships and introduced the water-tube boiler, the triple-screw propulsion system, vertical engines, the floating repair ship, and the "distilling ship." Appointed Engineer in Chief of the Navy, Melville reformed the service entirely, putting Navy engineers on a professional rather than an artisan footing.
Melville also established the Engineering Experiment Station (EES) near the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis laboratory was a brainchild of Melville. As Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy, he fought hard to get an appropriation of $400,000 for an experiment and testing laboratory to be located at Annapolis. He argued that such a facility would be a dependable means for testing machinery and equipment before its installation in Navy ships and aid training engineering officers. Both, he surmised, would increase the efficiency of the Navy. When the Navy offered to have this facility named after him, Melville refused with characteristic modesty.
Melville made his first trip to the Arctic in 1873, when he volunteered to help rescue 19 survivors of the Polaris expedition. Six years later, he volunteered to accompany Lieutenant Commander George W. DeLong on board the USS Jeannette to the Bering Strait in search of a quick way to the North Pole. Jeannette became icebound and was eventually crushed; Melville and the others in his small boat were the only survivors. Despite the extreme length and hardships of the trip, he returned in search of DeLong and others who might possibly still be alive. He found none but retrieved all records of the expedition. The United States Congress awarded Melville the Congressional Gold Medal for his gallantry and resourcefulness; the Navy advanced him 15 numbers on the promotion list. He wrote of the DeLong expedition in his book, In the Lena Delta, published in 1884.
Bureau of Steam Engineering
Melville was an Inspector of Coal in 1884–1886, then performed his final seagoing duty in the new cruiser Atlanta. President Grover Cleveland appointed Melville Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering 9 August 1887, with the relative rank of Commodore. During more than a decade and a half in that post, he was responsible for the Navy's propulsion systems during an era of remarkable force expansion, technological progress and institutional change. Melville superintended the design of 120 ships of the "New Navy". Among the major technical innovations that he helped introduce, often in defiance of the conservative opinion within the naval establishment, were the water-tube boiler, the triple-screw propulsion system, vertical engines, the floating repair ship, and the "distilling ship."
Promoted to Rear Admiral 3 March 1899, he was appointed Engineer in Chief of the Navy 6 December 1900. Melville entirely reformed the service, putting Navy engineers on a professional rather than an artisan footing.
The Annapolis laboratory was a brainchild of Melville. As Engineer-in-Chief of the Navy, he fought hard to get an appropriation of $400,000 for an experiment and testing laboratory to be located at Annapolis. In 1903, he finally was successful in obtaining the appropriation for the Engineering Experiment Station (EES).
His primary argument for the establishment of an experiment station was that it would increase the efficiency of the Navy. His idea was to establish a dependable means for testing — before installation — machinery and equipment designed for Navy ships. His secondary argument was that it could aid in training engineering officers, and therefore, it should be located in Annapolis near the Naval Academy. With characteristic modesty, Melville refused to have EES named in his honor.
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