That’s A Heap Of Homework, Professor! Subs Trailed Through 250,00 Triangles

Another significant scientific war contribution by a University of Cincinnati faculty member came to light last night when it was learned that Dr. Paul Herget, professor of astronomy, College of Liberal Arts and director of UC Observatory, recently returned to UC, wrote the book that made possible the locating of enemy sub-marines by their  radio signals from around the world.

The book, of which fewer than 100 copies are believed to have been issued, performed the sub-finding task through the computation of a quarter-million spherical triangles.

For three and one-half years Dr. Herget, a UC graduate, served as astronomer at the U. S. Naval Observatory at Washington. He declined an invitation to remain as permanent member of the staff there, preferring to return to UC.

The book represented a remarkable utilization of the sciences of astronomy and mathematics on international Business Machines Corp. Machines. The machines, similar to those seen in many large accounting departments, handle and inscribe punch-cards with remarkable speed and accuracy, Dr. Herget said.

Once the solution of all these spherical triangles was available in book form it became possible to locate an enemy submarine within three to five minutes after it started to transmit messages. This was the first step in the Navy’s destruction of German wolf-packs at the time when the threat to American convoys was most serious.

One of the most gratifying testimonials as to the book’s helpfulness came from the Captain of a destroyer, who said the “tracking chart” had been highly effective.

Dr. Herget was stationed in the same office in which the Air Almanac was produced, with the same computing machinery used in producing the submarine tracking book.

The almanac was described as essential for the navigation of all bombers, air transports and every plane that has navigator. The almanac, produced by the tens of thousands, was photolithed.

In an article on “air Almanac,” w. J. Eckert, then director of the Nautical Almanac Office, and published in Sky and Telescope, it was pointed out that “the American Air Almanac is prepared by a unique method, developed int he Nautical Almanac Office, whereby the human element has been lamost entirely eliminated.”

“Automatic computing machines using punched cards not only perform the calculations, but print the results in such form that they can be reproduced directly by the photo-offset process,” Eckert continued. “Thus all the conventional methods of computation and typsetting have been eliminated.”


CINCINNATI, Aug. 28— Paul Herget, an astronomer and a pioneer in the space program, died yesterday. He was 73 years old. Mr. Herget retired in 1978 as director of the Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union and head of the astronomy department at the University of Cincinnati.

In the 1950’s, he was responsible for computing trajectories and orbits in the development of the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile, the Vanguard satellite program and the Mercury manned space flights. His 1948 book, ”The Computation of Orbits,” was a landmark work in the early days of the space program and is still required reading in the field of celestial mechanics.

In World War II, Mr. Herget developed a triangulation method for the United States Naval Observatory to determine the location of enemy submarines. Later he served as a consultant to the Manhattan Project in developing the atomic bomb. Member of Academy of Sciences

He was named to the National Academy of Sciences in 1962 and was awarded the James Craig Medal for research three years later. At Cincinnati, Mr. Herget coordinated the identification and registration of newly discovered asteroids. He also kept records of asteroid orbits and conducted searches for asteroids that had been lost to observers. In 1954, he rediscovered the asteroid Athelia, which had not been observed for more than 50 years.

Since his retirement, he had devoted his time to computer development and assisted in several scholarly papers. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. Services will be private.