Top left banner Top right banner
Bottom left banner Bottom right banner
Home : Home : Warfare Centers : NSWC Carderock : Who We Are : Rear Adm. David W. Taylor
Rear Adm. David W. Taylor
Rear Admiral David Watson Taylor, USN (March 4, 1864 - July 28, 1940) was a naval architect and engineer of the United States Navy. He served during World War I as Chief Constructor of the Navy, and Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair. Taylor is best known as the man who constructed the first experimental towing tank ever built in the United States.

Early Life and Career

Taylor was born in Louisa County, Va. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1881, after graduating from Randolph-Macon College. He graduated from the Academy in 1885 at the head of his class, setting a scholarship record. He was sent to Greenwich, England in 1885 and received the highest honors of the Royal Naval College in 1888, again setting a record.

In August 1886, Taylor was appointed an assistant naval constructor. Early in his naval career he served on various stations and in 1909 acted as chief of the Navy's Bureau of Construction and Repair. He was the first American honored by award of a gold medal of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.

Instrumental in convincing Congress of the value of towing tanks and model tests in support of our nation's defense mission, Naval Constructor Taylor designed and supervised construction of the Washington Navy Yard's Experimental Model Basin (EMB). Taking charge of the EMB in 1899, Taylor undertook experiments to discover what characteristics of a ship's hull govern its water resistance. By a method internationally known since 1910 as the Taylor Standard Series Method, he determined the actual effect of changing those characteristics, making it possible to estimate in advance the resistance of a ship of given proportions. His Speed and Power of Ships (1910), setting forth this knowledge, is still informative.

After the Titanic disaster of 1912, he was assigned to investigate the problem of making ships more seaworthy through better hull construction. On this duty, he served under the Secretary of Commerce and took a leading part in the International Conference on Safety at Sea, which grew out of the Titanic sinking.

For 15 years he remained in charge of EMB, during which time more than 1,000 ship designs for all Navy and many civilian vessels were tested.

Taylor as Chief Constructor of the Navy during World War I

On Dec. 14, 1914, a few months after the outbreak of war in Europe, Taylor became chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, with the rank of rear admiral on Dec. 14, 1914. He held that post throughout the war, along with the title of chief constructor of the Navy.

Taylor's active interest in aviation was stimulated by his appointment as a representative of the government on the National Research Council in 1916. In January 1917, he was senior member of the Joint Army and Navy Technical Board for Design and Construction of a Zeppelin-type airship.

Through the World War, Taylor supervised the creation of numbers of new ships for naval service. For this work the Navy bestowed upon him the Distinguished Service Medal, with the citation: "For exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility as Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair." The French government made him a Commander of the Legion of Honor.

Rear Admiral Taylor also aided in the development of the NC-type flying boat, the first aircraft to make a transatlantic flight.

Activities in the Post-war Period

Admiral Taylor retired from active service in 1923. After his retirement, Taylor focused his attention on aeronautics. He played a major role in promoting aviation's technical development, serving on several committees of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Taylor served as chairman of NACA's Subcommittee on Aeronautical Inventions and Designs after the subcommittee was organized in March 1927. Later that year, he was made chairman of the Subcommittee on Aerodynamics.

Long recognized as an international authority on naval architecture and marine engineering. Taylor applied the principles of hydrodynamics to the problem of aerodynamics. Following this new field of aviation, Taylor became one of the foremost authorities in the world in aerodynamics. He specialized on problems connected with the design of aircraft propellers and of seaplane floats and flying-boat hulls.

In 1931, Taylor was awarded the John Fritz Medal, which is the highest honor of the American engineering profession, "for outstanding achievement in marine architecture, for revolutionary results of persistent research in hull design, for improvements in many types of warships and for distinguished service as chief constructor for the United States Navy during the World War."

Shortly before his death, the Navy's Research and Development community honored Taylor by naming its new model basin after him. The new model basin constructed at Carderock, Maryland, the finest facility of its kind in the world, was dedicated as the David Taylor Model Basin in his presence in 1939. The Model Basin retains his name as a living memorial to this distinguished naval architect and marine engineer.

Taylor died in Washington, D.C. on July 28,1940.


In addition to the Model Basin, the Navy has honored Taylor's legacy in several ways. In 1942, the destroyer David W. Taylor (DD-551) was named in his honor. The Navy's David W. Taylor Award recognizes outstanding scientific achievement, awarded for a contribution to the development of future maritime systems through the creation of technology based upon research.

The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers awards the David W. Taylor Medal for "notable achievement in naval architecture and/or marine engineering."