Monday, February 9, 2009
Pioneer in Government Computer Planning
Marshall Wood, 94, a pioneer in the use of computers for large- scale defense and economic planning,
died Jan. 20 of cardiac and respiratory failure at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital in Blue Hill, Maine. A native
of the District, he was a resident of Castine, Maine.
In 1942, Mr. Wood was working for the U.S. Army Air Forces at the newly constructed Pentagon. As a member of the
Office of Program Control and Statistical Control, he developed a service-wide system for procuring aircraft, spare
parts and supplies, as well as for training combat air crews, mechanics and technicians.
In 1947, he became chief of the planning research division and assistant director of management analysis for the newly
independent Air Force. His duties included responsibility for developing the first major application of computers to
management science, known as Project Scoop, the Scientific Computation of Optimum Programs.
Mr. Wood and other Air Force scientists were well aware of the challenges he and other Army Air Forces planners had
encountered deploying large numbers of forces and equipment in World War II. Project Scoop allowed Air Force
analysts to put aside their desktop calculators and begin to rely on the first commercial computer delivered outside of
the factory. Developed by the agency then known as the National Bureau of Standards, this "electronic brain," as
newspapers of the day called it, was installed in the Pentagon basement in 1952.
Marshall Kemball Wood was born into a family that had worked in government service for several generations. His
great-grandfather William P. Wood was appointed first chief of the Secret Service by President Abraham Lincoln, and
his grandfather George McLane Wood was the longtime editor in chief of the U.S. Geological Survey. His father,
Herbert Spencer Wood, was assistant chief of the U.S. Bureau of Government Efficiency during the Wilson
He graduated from Central High School at age 16 and apprenticed for a year at the National Bureau of Standards
(now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) before enrolling at Antioch College. After transferring to the
University of Chicago, he received his undergraduate degree in zoology and geology in 1935. For six years, he worked
for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest before moving to the Pentagon.
After his work with Project Scoop, he became chief of the Mobilization and Planning Branch and staff director of the
vulnerability analysis division in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was awarded the first Rockefeller Public
Service Award, which allowed him time to complete a degree in 1955 in public administration from Harvard's Littauer
School of Public Administration (now the John F. Kennedy School of Government).
In 1959, he left government service to become director of program analysis for resource management at the National
Planning Association, where he oversaw development of a sophisticated national economic model.
Returning to government service in 1971, he worked in the office of research and statistics of the Social Security
Administration and the Social and Rehabilitation Service in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare before
retiring in 1975.
He and his wife moved to a small town in Maine, where they transformed their 18th-century farmhouse into one of the
first active and passive solar houses in the area.
Mr. Wood's marriage to Cecilia Van Voorhis Wood ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Marjorie Wood of Castine; three children from the first marriage, David Wood of
Newport, R.I., Carol Sheehan of Charleston, S.C., and Van Wood of Greenfield, Mass.; and three stepchildren from the
second marriage, Daniel Stafford of Gaithersburg, Laurie Tenney of Castine and Molly Stafford of Boynton Beach, Fla.;
nine grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.
-- Joe Holley