Wilmot N. Hess
U.S. Department of Energy
Hess was born on October 16, 1926 in Oberlin, Ohio to Walter and Rachel (Metcalf) Hess. The family moved to Clinton, NY where he grew up during the Great Depression. He attended a one-room schoolhouse for the first six grades, with only three in his class but plenty of opportunity to 'skip ahead' due to the commingled age groups. Hess received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University in 1946 at the age of 19. In his privately published "Wilmot's World" biography, he says "I took the test to get into the Navy V-12 program.... We had military drills and wore Navy uniforms, but it was mostly just going to college. The first entry in our Navy log every day started out 'USS Hartley Hall securely moored at Broadway and 116th Street....' The Commodore in charge of all Naval Officer Procurement had his office in our building. We apprentice seamen stood watch near his door. At 4 pm we had to go in and say (with a straight face): "Sir, the time is reported as 1600. The galley fires are out and the prisoners are ashore." If you smiled during the presentation, you might be thrown in the brig (jail)." He was 87th in his family line to go to Oberlin College, where he received his M.A. in Physics in 1949. Hess then attended the University of California at Berkeley where he received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1954. Bill married Winifred Esther (Westher) Lowdermilk in June 1950, during his first year of graduate school at UC Berkeley. They had three children, Walter (deceased), Alison and Carl.