Russell Stevenson Sr., helped develop military technologies

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Russell B. Stevenson Sr., who contributed to the development of military technologies used in World War II and the Cold War, died Wednesday at Union Memorial Hospital of respiratory failure. The Ruxton resident was 87.

He was born in Bessemer, Ala., and moved to Ruxton as a boy after his father died. He spent his adult years in Roland Park and, more recently, in Ruxton.

A graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Mr. Stevenson served as PTA president while his sons were students there.

He graduated in 1929 from the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied engineering and was a member of the Delta Phi fraternity. He then worked in sales and marketing for the Frieze Instrument Co. in Towson, which later was absorbed by Bendix Corp. There, he contributed to the development of the first aircraft flight data recorders, weather instruments and a variety of military applications.

Working briefly for Davison Chemicals in Baltimore during World War II, he developed a way to keep aircraft engines from rusting during shipment overseas. It was his idea to fit the engine with dummy spark plugs -- hollowed-out plugs filled with silica gel. The gel kept the engines dry in the moist environment of ocean transport.

Recently, he learned that his technique had been adapted to preserve space shuttle engines during pre-launch preparations.

After retiring from Bendix, Mr. Stevenson continued to develop markets for high-technology products, including computer communications systems and starlight intensifiers that preceded today's night-vision goggles.

A lifelong sailor on "other people's boats," he finally bought his own sailboat at the age of 65. He was a member and former officer of the Potapskut Sailing Association.

Since the 1950s, he had been a member of the Vestry of St. David's Episcopal Church in Roland Park, where services were set for 11 a.m. today.

Survivors include his wife, the former Elizabeth Priest of Norfolk, Va.; two sons, Russell B. Stevenson Jr. of Washington, D.C., and Robert Stevenson of Pasadena; a daughter, Elizabeth Green of Gibson Island; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Johns Hopkins University.

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