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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 22, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 42
APL Legend and Former Director Alexander Kossiakoff, 91

Alexander Kossiakoff

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 submarine-launched missiles.

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 President�s Medal.

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.


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