Will Forman Named as an Honorary Member of MTS

July 6, 2020

In recognition of decades of innovation, Will Forman was named an Honorary Member of MTS for his exemplary achievements to advance marine technology in the areas of material science, deep sea submersible engineering, and mission critical operations.  

Forman’s work has significantly impacted underwater vehicle technology for commercial, research and government applications. He is noted for designing the first American deep-sea submersible for the US Navy in 1960 called the Deep Jeep which was rated to 2,000 feet.  In addition, he developed the Kumukahi submersible, considered to be the first acrylic hull submersible for use in expeditions and research missions. Forman’s Deep View submersible was fabricated with the first large glass partial-pressure hull rated to 1500 feet. Forman’s innovations in the use of Syntactic foam is now ubiquitous in all undersea vehicles.

His marine technology innovations include the development of robust life support monitoring systems, material sciences of glass as a pressure vessel component in submersibles, and mission critical applications under high pressure.

Forman’s passion for submarines began early in life. In the introduction to one of his books, The Deep Voyage, Forman described his early passion for submarines. At 10 years old, he whittled a “foot-long, cigar shaped submarine hull from a broom stick, complete with conning tower, periscope, and a wind-up, rubber band powered propeller. With a shaft made from a screw thread that moved an arm to actuate the dive planes, the rotating propeller caused the sub to dive and surface several times before the rubber band unwound completely. The neighbor’s fishpond was my test tank – until the day I dropped a large “cherry bomb” to depth charge my submarine! The tremendous explosion sent waterspouts, goldfish, and chunks of water lilies 10 feet in the air. In minutes, the pond drained completely leaving dead fish and water lilies. I never saw the submarine again. And, by popular demand, my brief underwater career was put on hold – for almost 18 years.”

After serving as a Navy Carrier Pilot during WWII, Forman earned a general engineering degree from the University of Portland. After graduation he worked for the Bonneville Power Administration, Department of Interior as the main shop engineer in Vancouver, Washington gaining valuable knowledge vital to his innovations. He later accepted a job at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), China Lake, California and worked with Firth Pierce, a brilliant physicist, to design, manage, and test pilot the first American-built deep submersible.

In addition to design innovations, Forman contributed to the creation of safety standards for the design and operation of deep submersibles through a series of Safety Guidelines published from 1968 to 1979 by the Marine Technology Society. Forman was named a Fellow of the Marine Technology Society in 1999 and is a founding member of the Deep Submersible Pilot Association. Forman is also an author of two books The History of American Deep Submersible Operations: 1775-1995 and The Deep Voyage.

Today, the 92-year old Forman remains an MTS member and enthusiastically encourages young students to compete in the human powered submarine races, held in San Diego every year. MTS is proud to bestow this honor on Mr. Forman, a man who has lived an extraordinary life that created and then pushed the boundaries in the field of manned underwater submersibles.

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