David Lucius Merritt

September 1, 1939- September 30, 2019
On September 30, 2019, David Lucius Merritt, 80, died peacefully at his home in Fallbrook, California.
After being diagnosed with end stage Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2016 he spent his
remaining years in rapidly declining health; and yet, all the while he inspired everyone around
him with his unfailing grace, kindness and courage.

David obtained both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering at Yale. He
credited his exceptional Yale education and his faculty advisor Professor Peter P. Wegener, one
of an elite group of German scientists who developed the infamous V-1 and V-2 rockets, with
determining his career path. Dr. Wegener advised him to go to work at the Naval Ordnance
Laboratory in White Oak, MD because there was exciting research in aerodynamics going on
there. David took his advice and so began a long, exciting and fulfilling career in the Navy Department
where he developed and managed technologies that were literally out of this world.

David retired in 2003 with over 40 years of service, 18 years as a Senior Executive.
David began his career developing unique experimental techniques for exploring the effects of
shock waves on objects in flight and engaging in original research into topics in supersonic flight
and the effects of nuclear weapons on vehicles in supersonic flight. He later became a founding
member of the Navy’s newly formed High Energy Laser Project which had the objective of applying
rapidly emerging high energy laser technology to the formidable problem of defending
Navy warships against cruise missiles. David was a member of the team that achieved the first
successful demonstration of using a laser beam to bring down a supersonic missile in flight.
Later, David led the Navy’s Directed Energy Weapons Program, a job that put him in the role of
the senior Navy representative to President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”).
At the time of his retirement, he held the positions of Director of Advanced Concepts and Chief
Technology Officer at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, CA,
where he focused on transitioning new concepts from the world of technology to the fleet.

Following retirement, David joined a small group of international scientists, including representatives
from the Netherlands, France and Poland, who were developing a mathematical model for
predicting laser beam propagation through the near surface maritime environment. He participated
in several experiments to measure beam propagation under real world conditions.

Despite his interest and accomplishments in advanced technologies, a simple lifestyle is what
suited David the best. He loved the outdoors, sailing, walking, biking, rowing, and simply communing
with nature. He enjoyed poetry, books and all kinds of music. He loved to travel and
having the freedom to take off on an adventure whenever the mood struck him. He always said,
“getting there was half the fun and, many times, it was all the fun.“

David’s family gave him his greatest joy, strength and purpose. He is survived by his son Gregory
(Dawn) Merritt and grandson Ryan Merritt, all of whom he was tremendously proud. He
leaves his partner Roberta Dotson, whom he called his soul mate and with whom he shared his
life for more than 20 years.