2010 Fellow

Presented to: Dr. Raynor L. Duncombe

Citation: For his involvement in developing the initial methods for tracking the first artificial satellites, and for his leadership in the production of almanacs and the development of the new celestial reference system in the 1970s, and for his contributions in the founding of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation.


Dr. Raynor L. Duncombe worked in the Nautical Almanac Office of the US Naval Observatory from 1950 until 1975 and was director of the same from 1963-1975. The office produced the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, The Nautical Almanac, The Air Almanac, The Astronomical Phenomena, BLM the Ephemeris, and Sight Reduction Tables. He was actively involved in the introduction of punched card equipment and computers, in the production of the almanacs and computing ephemerides and worked with Paul Herget and Gerald Clemence in developing the software for tracking artificial satellites, including the software for the Vanguard project, the Mercury missions and the naval space surveillance system. Dr. Duncombe did research on the orbits of Venus, Mars, and the outer planets. After retiring from the USNO he moved to the University of Texas and has taught the �Determination of Time� in the aerospace engineering department for more than 30 years. He was a member of the astrometry team for the Hubble Space Telescope and has been active in the International Astronomical Union, American Astronomical Society, The American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Institute of Navigation.

Dr. Duncombe was an early member of the ION and held many offices in the ION, including president. He was responsible for the American ION becoming a member of the International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN) and was the first vice president of the IAIN. He was active in the use of celestial navigation, the almanacs referenced above, and helped develop the initial methods of tracking artificial satellites. He carried on an active research program in astronomy throughout his career and has published a large number of papers in navigation and astronomy. He was active in international cooperation in navigation and astronomy, including the definition of UTC, and the revisions of the reference systems in the 1970s. Dr. Duncombe has been active in navigation for more than 60 years. He received his Ph.D. degree from Yale University.