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Pioneers of the 20th Century:
Dr. Russell Lyddane

This exhibit is on display at the museum.


Visit it anytime between 10 am and 4 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Pioneers of the 20th Century: Dr. Charles Cohen
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AUGUST 24, 2001


The spacious firmament on high,

with all the blue ethereal sky,

and spangled heavens, a shining frame,

their great Original proclaim.

The unwearied sun from day to day

does his Creator’s power display;

and publishes to every land

the work of an almighty hand.


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.


The hymn which we have just sung is most appropriate to this occasion. Russell Lyddane loved good music and particularly the music of Mozart, Handel and Haydn. The tune we have just sung is taken from Haydn’s oratorio, the Creation. Dad Lyddane would have loved it if we could have Mozart’s Requiem Mass for him this morning. Well, this service is as close to that as we can come. Stuart Ashton has played a piece by Mozart this morning, the Ave Verum, and we are celebrating a Requiem Mass.


Joseph Addison’s hymn is appropriate for another and more important reason as well. It was written in 1712 at the height of what has come to be labeled “the age of science.” This was the age of Sir Isaac Newton who through mathematics and physics revealed an orderly universe. The age of science may have overturned medieval myths, but the works of Descartes, Galileo and above all Newton confirmed much of scripture. Joseph Addison wrote his hymn fourteen years before the death of Newton. These words express in poetry the truth that Descartes, Galileo and Newton had expressed in mathematics and physics. They also express the truth that is found in the nineteenth psalm.


Mathematics and science are a testament of God. Russell Lyddane and the other great physicists and mathematicians of the first rank are deeply religious scientists, not in spite of science, but because God has spoken to them through their knowledge of God’s natural order. We of the Anglican tradition know that and hold that our theology is based on scripture, tradition and reason. God created the human brain and has given it to us to use.


What a mind God gave Russell Hancock Lyddane! He easily was the most brilliant man I have ever met. Here was a man who not only read the works of the great minds in his field but personally knew as scientific colleagues the likes of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie. He wrote the Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Ballistics. Before World War II he was a physics professor at the University of North Carolina, but in response to Pearl Harbor he offered his services to the Navy. He came to Dahlgren where he served throughout the war. When the war ended he did not go back to the class room but stayed on at Dahlgren where he became the technical director of the base.


His brilliance and intellectual energy were not merely confined to his speciality, as we see happen with some today. Russell Lyddane was a Renaissance man. He was fluent in an incredible number of languages. He loved poetry, literature, history, art, music. He loved to work puzzles: mathematical puzzles, word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, any puzzle so long as it stimulated that incredible mind of his. He was well read, and he remembered everything he read. He knew more history than many a Ph.D. candidate sitting for his doctoral exams knows. Right up to the end he was reading at a pace of at least a book a day. I noticed back at the house he had been reading at least two books when they took him to the hospital. One was Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence, a history of western thought and culture over the last five hundred yeas and the other was the short stories of H.G. Wells. I know he had read the Wells many times.


When I was a young teenager he lent me books to read, and the first book he lent me forty three years ago was H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. His family and I suspect his colleagues as well know Dad Lyddane as being at times an irascible man. All of us children will for ever hear him saying, “Oh Lucy!” I am told that the day Elizabeth turned thirteen he arrived at work in what seemed to his secretary a rather foul mood. He explained what put him in that mood, but I will clean it up. “Darn, Darn, Darn, today Elizabeth has become a teenager, and I can’t stand teenagers.” A few years ago Elizabeth and I found his great grandmother, Sophia Hancock’s will. In it she says, “Now, I do not want any trouble with you children if you don’t like the way I have divided don’t say a word it is just as I want it there is not a sole on earth that knows anything about this will but myself.” Those words of his great grandmother’s could just as easily have come from him. Of course, my fondest memory of his comes sometime later as he walked Elizabeth down the aisle to be my bride.


He loved his family, and we in turn loved him. Not long before his death, when his final illness was already taking its toll and he had been given the last rite of the Church he was visited by all three of his great grandchildren. Kimberly and Charlie ages two and a half and one played catch with him. He enjoyed that as he treasured his time with all of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Friday evening Elizabeth and I got the call that the end was near. We immediately left here for the drive back to Pennsylvania. When we entered his room there was the rest of the family gathered around his bed. It seemed he had been waiting for us. His wife, six of us children and seven grandchildren were at his side. I read the service from the prayer book called “Ministration at the Time of Death.” He opened his eyes, we said our goodbyes, and this Christian soul departed out of this world.


Russell Hancock Lyddane was and is a Christian. In him we find a man of deep faith and commitment to his Lord. Although not ordained and not a bishop he was a theologian and a tireless guardian of faith. He served on the vestry here at St. Paul’s. He and Ann Newton, whose granddaughters at the acolytes at this service, designed and made the processional cross for St. Paul’s. At the time of his final illness he was editing the doctoral dissertation of his rector in Pennsylvania. He even proposed to mother at Ascension and St. Agnes Episcopal Church in Washington.


His faith was based on the Gospel of grace and it was most appropriate that he loved the words from Bishop George Washington Doane’s famous hymn:


“Fling out the banner! Let it float

Skyward and seaward, high and wide;

The sun that lights its shining folds,

The cross, on which the Saviour died.


Fling out the banner! Wide and high

Seaward and skyward, let is shine;

Nor skill, nor might, nor merit ours

We conquer only in that sign.”


Since Saturday morning we have been grieving our loss and we will continue to grieve our loss. On behalf of the family I wish to express our heartfelt thanks to all of you here present as well as all the others who have been so kind to us in word and deed. Grief is natural and it is appropriate. We should never shut down our emotions. But we can take great comfort in what Dad Lyddane treasured most, for we Christians understand that his departure last Saturday morning was not an ending at all, but merely a transition. In the words of the preface for the commemoration of the dead in The Book of Common Prayer, “Jesus Christ our Lord; who rose victorious from the dead, doth comfort us with the blessed hope of everlasting life; for thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”


Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And Saint Paul wrote to the Romans:“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.


Deborah Sloan, Friends of the Dahlgren School


I know this is immaterial. My best friend when I was four or five was Charlie Lyddane. Charlie was Lucy and Russell’s youngest child. When my paternal grandfather died, my parents farmed out their four children and I was left with the Lyddanes. Dr Lyddane and his wonderful wife Lucy took great care of me. They lived in what we called captains’ road in Sampson Road, near the admiral’s quarters on Machodac Creek. We used to sled in the winter snow near there. I was born in 1953 and these memories date to 1958 or so.


Margie Stevens


Dr. Russell was one of the most revered (and feared if you misbehaved). Whenever I was at the Lydanne house you never questioned the rules and put your most polite foot forward. Ironically, his sons were mischievous and sometimes unruly in Sunday School, but never mean or unkind. Dr. Russell was never pompous. We knew he was brilliant; unlike so many quirky scientists today, he respected everyone and was very personable, even with kids.

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