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Ralph Alanson Sawyer
Regents' Proceedings 1122

Ralph Alanson Sawyer, Professor of Physics, Dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and Vice-President for Research, completed his retirement furlough on November 1, 1965, and became eligible for an emeritus appointment.

A native of Atkinson, New Hampshire, Mr. Sawyer was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1915. After having earned his doctorate at the University of Chicago and served for a year as Ensign in the United States Navy, he came to The University of Michigan in 1919 as Instructor in Physics. He early distinguished himself by his research in spectroscopy, radiometry, and various subtle forms of spectrographic analysis. In 1926 and 1927 he was a Guggenheim Fellow in Berlin, where he acquired the spoken German, which made him subsequently a welcome scientific emissary in the West German Republic. At The University of Michigan he rose quickly through the several ranks to a professorship and served on the principal committees of the Literary College and the University Senate.

Re-entering active naval service in 1941, Mr. Sawyer assumed charge of the Navy's Armor and Projectile Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia. All the experimental laboratories at Dahlgren were presently put under his direction. As a civilian again, he was made technical and scientific director of the atomic bomb tests at Bikini, with more than five hundred scientists in his charge.

Upon his return to academic life in 1946, the University appointed him to the deanship of the Graduate School. Concurrently he presided over the planning committee of the nascent Michigan Memorial-Phoenix Project and became the Project's first Director, lending it incentive, administrative efficiency, and sound scientific judgment. In 1959, the University appointed him to the newly created post of Vice President for Research. Regarding the many particular offices, which he undertook for the University in the years after 1946, one notes with respect and a kind of wonder the body of administrative detail of which he took official cognizance.

Meanwhile he continued his public-service career as an expert adviser to the Navy, the Air Force, the National Bureau of Standards, and other agencies, and as a witness before interested congressional committees. These duties greatly enhanced his ability to serve the University and to gain support for its burgeoning sponsored research programs. Reciprocally, his intimate acquaintance with University research lent authority to his advice and testimony in Washington. Among the formal accolades, which he received for distinguished national service was the Navy Commendation Ribbon bestowed on him in 1950 when he was appointed Captain in the Reserve.

During the same period he attained a yet higher stature within his academic specialty. A Fellow and former President of the Optical Society of America and a Fellow of the American Physical Society, he became in 1959 Chairman of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics, a federation of scientific societies in the field.

The more general honors heaped upon him are too numerous to record in a brief memoir. His Alma Mater, Dartmouth, conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Science degree, and Wayne State University conferred a Doctor of Laws. In Ann Arbor, where his personal qualities were inseparably a part of his daily round, the honor accruing to him for what he had done was united with respect for what he was and for the grace and dignity with which he invested his accomplishments. One is minded to counter Emerson's complaint against Mr. Sawyer's native state by observing that the God who made New Hampshire sometimes blessed the lofty land with men of equivalent stature.

The Regents of the University would express their own admiration and gratitude as they appoint him Vice-President Emeritus for Research, Dean Emeritus of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and Professor Emeritus of Physics.