The recent death of Philip Van Horn Weems, at the advanced age of 90, has removed from the field of navigation one of its most outstanding and colourful personalities. His contributions, made over a period of more than half a century, have ranged over almost every aspect of navigation: practising navigator, instrument inventor, pioneer of the GHA form of Nautical Almanac and of the first Air Almanac, introducer of the Star Altitude Curves, brilliant expositor (as his books so clearly demonstrate), successful business man who trained many thousand navigators through his training schools and correspondence courses – he devoted his whole life to navigation with boundless energy and contagious enthusiasm.
This is not the place to give the factual details of his life, or to put on record his many achievements, both inside and outside his professional career. Many of his most lasting and significant contributions to the practice of navigation, although so familiar to myself, can only be appreciated by a detailed study relative to the contemporary ‘state of the art’; Weems was, above all else, an innovator of ideas many of which were developed by others and which deserve a fuller and more technical treatment.
A brief summary of his career follows. Weems, left an orphan at an early age, had a hard life on the family farm in Tennessee, with little formal education.