Robert C. Duncan (engineer)

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Robert C. Duncan (November 21, 1923–2003) was an American engineer and engineering manager, particularly for the US Government. He is best known for two of the programs he directed to a successful completion - guidance and control for Apollo program, and the Polaroid SX-70 camera.


He received BS degrees from the United States Naval Academy (1945) and the Naval Postgraduate School (1953), and MS and PhD degrees in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1951).

He served in the United States Navy from 1946 to 1965. He was trained as a pilot, and flew both fighters and heavy attack bombers. On the completion of his flight duties in 1960, he had attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He served in the Pentagon from 1960 to 1964, first as chief of space programs for the Chief of Naval Operations, and next as staff assistant director for research and engineering.

When he retired from the Navy in 1965, he had been assigned to NASA in Houston, Texas, at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center). During his three years there he was chief of the Guidance and Control Division. After that, he spent a year back in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as assistant director of the Electronics Research Center.

He then left the government in 1968, to become a vice president of the Polaroid Corporation, spending the next spent seven years there. He first served as program manager of the SX-70 camera, with responsibilities for its design, engineering, and production; in 1975, he was elected vice president of engineering.

He returned to government employment from 1985 to 1993. His first position was as Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; a year later, was confirmed in a dual capacity, becoming simultaneously Director of Defense Research and Engineering.[1] His final role in the Pentagon was a four-year tour as Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, where he was principal advisor to both the Secretary of Defense and the Under-Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions.

He retired from the government in 1993, and became a vice president at Hicks and Associates (a national security consultanting firm).

Memberships and Awards

He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

His awards include the Legion of Merit (1964), the NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1968), and the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award (1987 and 1989).


  1. "A History of the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering". 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Robert S. Cooper
Director of DARPA
Succeeded by
Ray S. Colladay
Preceded by
Donald A. Hicks
Director of Defense Research and Engineering
Succeeded by
Charles M. Herzfeld