The Genius of Captain Weems
BEFORE THERE WAS GPS
The Navigation Genius of Captain Philip Van Horn Weems
1889 – 1979
In the 21st century we take knowing exactly where we are and where we are going (navigation) for granted. An inexpensive little black box gives us our latitude and longitude in a matter of seconds. But before the invention of the satellite Global Positioning System, and the GPS receiver, navigation was both an art and a science, and quite complex.
Captain Philip Van Horn Weems, the "Grand Old Man of Navigation," is renowned as a pioneer in the field. He modernized navigation by simplifying techniques; invented and adapted new, time saving methods; and most significantly, shared this knowledge through the tireless teaching of his discoveries and insights. His pupils were naval officers and adventurers. His advancements, which began during his career as a naval officer, now stretch across all types of navigation - from maritime to aeronautic, from underwater to outer space.
Most tools developed by Weems were developed in an era before computers as we know them today. The tools developed by Weems simplified and automated the problems of navigation so that anyone with a high school education could master basic celestial navigation.
Delve into navigating the old-fashioned way and explore for yourself how mariners of the past paved the way for navigation today.
Captain Weems lived in Annapolis as a Naval Academy midshipman in the early 1900s and again from the 1930s to his death in 1979. The company he founded lives on today as Weems & Plath , located at 38°58.16' N 076°28.68' W, that is, 214 Eastern Avenue, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, just blocks from the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
In 2003, Captain Weems was inducted posthumously into the Maritime Hall of Fame in Annapolis. Through his accomplishments and inventions, we invite you to explore his contributions to the history of navigation.
Click here for a PDF to learn more about Captain Weems.
Bee Weems, the Yacht
is a 36-foot downeast cruiser-styled yacht, designed by Spencer Lincoln and built by Zimmerman Marine of Cardinal, Virginia in 2005, using a hull formed by Atlantic Boats of Brooklin, Maine. The semi-custom yacht is owned by Weems & Plath. She is a wonderful showcase for Weems & Plath’s well-known nautical instruments and is named after the youngest son of company founder, Captain Philip Van Horn Weems.
The Trogdons, owners of Weems & Plath, Inc., felt it appropriate to name the Company boat after this promising young man whose life was tragically cut short.
Click here to read an article about the Bee Weems from the April 2007 edition of PropTalk magazine.
Bee Weems, the Man
Captain Weems and wife, Margaret Thackray had three children - Philip Van Horn Jr, Margaret Thackray II, and George Thackray. Both sons died before they had an opportunity to begin families of their own. The oldest died while on duty during World War II in the South Pacific and the youngest, George, nicknamed Bee at a very early age died as a test pilot on the Delaware River at the age of 30 following his successful engagement in the war.
Bee Weems was born in 1921. He graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy six months early in December of 1941 just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was featured in a full-length feature article in the December issue of Life Magazine of the same year. He was credited for being the number one man at the Academy, the “Five Striper”, an exemplary student and a fine example of a Navy officer sure to go far up the ranks, a leader that this country could trust to bring us safely through the war.
Click here to read a special article about Ensign George T. Weems from a 1941 edition of Life magazine!