P. V. H. Weems

P. V. H. Weems, internationally known air navigator, was born March 29, 1889, at Turbine, the son of Joseph Burch and May Elizabeth Rye Weems. He attended Walnut Grove Country School in Montgomery County and Branham and Hughes School in Spring Hill before receiving an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1908. While at the academy, Weems excelled in crew, football, boxing and wrestling, winning a place on the 1920 U.S. Olympic wrestling team. He graduated in 1912 and was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy. He married Margaret Thackray in New York in 1915.

In 1927 Weems served with the Aircraft Squadron Battle Fleet, began research in air navigation, and published Line of Position Book. From 1928 to 1930 he served as executive officer on U.S.S. Cuyama and wrote the textbook Air Navigation (1931), which received international acclaim and won a gold medal awarded by the Aero Club of France.

In addition to his military career, Weems established with his wife the Weems School of Navigation (1927). He perfected his air navigation system by simplifying the method of determining latitude and longitude by aerial observations, improving sextants, and adapting chronometers to air use. He taught air navigation to Charles Lindbergh and assisted in the aviator’s global flight to determine commercial airways for Pan American Airways. In 1933 Weems went on the naval retired list and devoted his energies to further perfecting his navigation system. That year he designed the first Air Almanac. Two years later he patented the Mark II Plotter and published Marine Navigation and Star Altitude Curves.

Weems returned to active duty in 1942 and won a Bronze Star for his service as a convoy commander. He was promoted to captain and received the wings of Naval Air Navigator in 1945. He retired from active duty for the second time in 1946.

As he had earlier, Weems continued his private career in air navigation. In 1960 the American Institute of Navigation awarded Weems a gold medal in honor of fifty years of outstanding achievement in air navigation. As the space age got underway Weems taught a pilot class in space navigation at the U.S. Naval Academy (1961-62). Weems furthered knowledge of the world through his mapping and navigation research. His papers are preserved at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title P. V. H. Weems
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 18, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018