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 JPL Director, 1946 - 1954

Louis Gerhardus Dunn, third director of JPL, was born on a ranch in the Transvaal region of South Africa in 1908.  Like Frank Malina, he had come to Caltech to study aeronautical engineering under Theodore von Kármán.  He ultimately completed four degrees at Caltech: in 1936, his bachelor’s degree; in 1937 and 1938, master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and aeronautical engineering, respectively; and in 1940, his Ph.D.  He then became a member of the Caltech faculty, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1943.

Dunn became the assistant director of JPL in 1945.  Malina hired him for his administrative skills; with the lab growing rapidly, Malina needed the aid of a well-organized manager.  When Malina left, Dunn became the acting director.  Caltech president Lee DuBridge made his appointment as director permanent in 1947.  Under Dunn’s leadership, JPL developed its first post-war guided missile, the Corporal.  JPL also expanded rapidly, growing from 546 employees in 1950 to 1061 in 1953.

In August 1954, Dunn suddenly announced his resignation.  He had been asked to take charge of the Ramo-Woolridge Corporation’s Atlas ballistic missile program.  He recommended to DuBridge that William Pickering, the project manager for the Corporal missile system, succeed him as director.  After a short search, DuBridge agreed and named Pickering director.

Dunn remained at Ramo-Woolridge in various positions until 1963, when he moved to Aerojet General.  He retired to Sacramento, Calif., and died in 1979.

 
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Dunn making adjustments
In this 1947 photo, Dunn makes adjustments on a Corporal missile shortly before it is launched.
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