Alexander Kossiakoff, former
director of the Applied Physics
Laboratory and a pioneer
in solid propellant rocket
technology who guided the
development of the Navy’s first guided missile
systems, died Aug. 6 from heart failure.
He was 91 and had been working regularly at
APL until shortly before his death.
Laboratory Director Richard Roca said
that Kossiakoff, affectionately known to staff
as “Kossy,” had “an enormous influence on
APL ever since he walked through the doors
of our Silver Spring building as a young missile
scientist in 1946.”
“His vision, integrity and enormous technical
and academic contributions have left
deep footprints on our institution,” Roca
wrote in an e-mail message to the APL community.
“Some losses leave little change; not
so the passing of our beloved Kossy.”
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1914,
Alexander Kossiakoff moved with his parents
to Seattle nine years later. He earned a
bachelor of science degree in chemistry from
the California Institute of Technology in
1936 and a doctorate in the same discipline
from Johns Hopkins in 1938.
In 1943, Kossiakoff left the faculty of the
Catholic University to assist in establishing
the Allegheny Ballistics Laboratory, a section
of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s
National Defense Research Committee created
to improve American preparedness.
Under Kossiakoff’s direction, the Allegheny
Ballistics Laboratory developed solid propellant
rockets—forerunners of the Navy’s air
defense missile boosters—and engines for
Kossiakoff joined APL in 1946 and led the
Bumblebee Program, which designed and
perfected the Terrier, Tartar and Talos radarguided
supersonic missiles for shipboard air
defense. From 1948 to 1961, he served as the
Lab’s assistant director for technical operations.
He became associate then deputy
director and was appointed the Laboratory’s
director in 1969, serving in that role for
more than 10 years. Under his leadership,
APL developed advanced systems for radar,
air defense, strategic communications, submarine
operations and spacecraft to advance
national security and space science.
In July 1980, Kossiakoff stepped down
as director and served as the Lab’s chief
scientist, a position he held until his death.
He also still served as chair of the Johns
Hopkins Technical Management and Systems
Engineering Programs at the Whiting
School of Engineering, where he initiated
and developed educational programs in
technical management and systems engineering
at the master’s degree level and for
in-house training. One of the school’s largest
graduate programs is managed at APL’s Kossiakoff
Conference and Education Center,
which was named in his honor in 1983.
Kossiakoff was awarded the Department
of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public
Service, the highest award that may be
granted by the Department of Defense to
an individual who is not an employee of the
government, in 1981. He also received the
Navy Distinguished Public Service Award,
which is the highest honor the Navy can
bestow upon a civilian (1958); the Presidential
Certificate of Merit (1948); and the
Bureau of Naval Ordnance Development
Award (1945). In 2004, he was awarded
the prestigious Johns Hopkins University
Kossiakoff held two patents on search
radar systems. He was a member of the
American Association for the Advancement
of Science and was a fellow of the American
Institute of Chemists and the International
Council on Systems Engineering.
Survivors include his wife of 66 years,
Arabelle Kossiakoff, of Brookeville, Md.; a
daughter, Tanya Schmieler, and son-in-law,
Jeffrey Schmieler, of White Oak, Md.; a son,
Anthony, and daughter-in-law, Susan, of
Chicago; and five granddaughters.
A memorial celebration is being planned
for the fall. Details on the event, to be held
in the Kossiakoff Conference and Education
Center on the APL campus, will be
announced at a later date.