Robert Storey Babington
April 21, 1933 – March 18, 2020
Robert Storey Babington, beloved husband, father, grandfather, inventor and founder of Babington Technology, Inc. passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 18th in Arlington, Virginia.
Bob was born to Robert Redvers and Florence Storey Babington, who emigrated from Ireland, on April 21, 1933 in Bronx, New York. He and his sister Eileen were raised in a loving home in Washington Heights in New York City in the Presbyterian faith. Bob was a gifted student at a young age with an aptitude for mathematics and mechanics. He went to Brooklyn Technical High School in an accelerated program to study pre-engineering and science. He was also an excellent swimmer and an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan. After graduating in 1951, he attended the Georgia Institute of Technology where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and enrolled in the Air Force Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) program. After college, Bob became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the special activities squadron at Langley Air Force Base to work on basic jet engine research.
In 1957, he married the love of his life, Carol Wommack, who graduated with a Nursing degree from Emory University in Atlanta. Bob and Carol were married in the First Baptist Church of Washington D.C. during the same week the Soviet Union launched Sputnik – the first artificial Earth satellite that began the Space Race. They settled in Levittown, Pennsylvania and Bob worked in the Aeronautical Turbine Laboratory at the Naval Air Turbine Test Station (NATTS) in Trenton, New Jersey. During his time there, he received an award for excellence in solving the explosive afterburner light off problem associated with the U.S. Navy’s F3H jet fighter aircraft.
In 1962, Bob became the youngest member of NASA’s legendary Manned Lunar Landing Task Group in Washington D.C. under the leadership of George Low, who would later become NASA’s chief Administrator. In those early days of human spaceflight, Bob’s Space Task Group was a key advocate for a lunar landing mission as opposed to a lunar orbiting mission, which ultimately inspired President Kennedy’s visionary goal to land on the Moon. After being transferred to Washington, D.C., Bob and Carol moved to McLean, Virginia where they would raise their four sons and make their home of 57 years. Bob quickly rose through the ranks at NASA and became Program Manager for the development of the Command and Service Module for the Apollo spacecraft. During those exciting years, he worked alongside many space pioneers, including famed rocket scientist Werner von Braun and General Samuel C. Phillips. Whenever asked about his early achievements in the Apollo program and Neil Armstrong’s historic Moon landing, Bob would comment with humor, “it was a neat trick.”
Bob left NASA in 1966 to work for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in applied research on space nuclear propulsion systems. However, to satisfy his inner desire to develop “something” of his own, he began researching humidification technologies in his spare time. When his two oldest sons contracted a minor respiratory infection, he was unhappy with conventional humidifiers and decided to make his own. After tinkering in his basement, he developed a unique liquid-spray that generated an ultra-fine mist – and the Babington Atomization Technology was born. After showing his spraying concept to his peers at NASA, Bob decided to leave behind twelve years of Government service to try to turn his invention into a business. With the strong support of Carol, he quit the AEC and started Babington Engineering in 1967.
Bob identified two immediate applications for his unique and superior spraying technology: medical aerosol nebulization used in the treatment of respiratory diseases; and liquid-fuel combustion used in the heating of residential homes. Babington Engineering found early success and Bob would go on to license the technology over the next 25 years with Fortune 500 companies and equipment manufacturers such as Rocketdyne (a division of North American Aviation), Owens-Illinois, American Hospital Supply, McGaw Respiratory Therapy, Electro-Oil of Sweden, Electrolux S.A.R.L, and Dometic S.A.R.L. Combined, these companies produced multiple product lines based on the patented atomization and combustion technology, including medical nebulizers (the Hydro-Sphere, Maxi-Cool and Solo-Sphere) and home heating oil burners (the EO Parcas Burner). However, it was the Babington-Airtronic Multi-Fuel Burner where the technology had its breakthrough and greatest early-market success heating thousands of homes throughout Europe and Scandinavia.
While building their business together, Bob and Carol also built their home in McLean while raising their family. Endowed with a great sense of humor and playful mischief, Bob also enjoyed coaching youth football and lost only one game in five years. He also had a passion for landscape architecture and construction projects ranging from building a Dutch barn to backyard ice rinks to rope swings.
In the 1980s, Bob continued to advance his technology, inventing new applications for various U.S. Government agencies. He worked with the Department of Agriculture to develop more efficient aerial spraying of insecticides and the Department of Defense to develop gas-mask filters and aerosol delivery devices for biological and chemical programs. This work would set the stage for a new era in his business and the most wide-spread use of his technology. In the 1990s, the U.S. Military adopted the Airtronic burner when it made the decision to eliminate explosive gasoline from the battlefield. In 1995, Babington Technology was formed to manufacture a new line of diesel-fired heating and cooking appliances that could feed troops on the front lines. Babington military appliances and field kitchens quickly revolutionized combat feeding, enabling enhanced troop maneuverability and off-grid sustainment.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bob and his team set to work on his most personal development project: a highly mobile kitchen system designed to enable emergency first responders to feed thousands of people during natural or man-made disasters. In 2012, the U.S. Air National Guard and FEMA fielded the Babington Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer as its “essential” capability for mass care and feeding under the U.S. National Response Framework.
Bob was larger than life and a true pioneer in his field, achieving an amazing sequence of first-time accomplishments for over half a century. He accumulated over 200 U.S. and foreign patents based on his original technology. He lived the American dream through hard work and with the help of devoted engineers, partners and employees. He led his talented team making game-changing products across three different industries: medical respiratory therapy, home heating, and military and disaster relief sustainment. The technology that bears his name has served hundreds of millions of meals over two wars, a dozen hurricanes and earthquakes – and continues today – supporting Army and Air National Guard personnel as they bravely deploy and fight the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the nation and the world. He loved people, his dogs, dancing and music, cowboy movies, telling a great story and spending time at his beach house in North Carolina. He also loved his Washington DC-based sports teams, including the Redskins, Nationals and Capitals. But nothing compared to his love and devotion to his wife and family, friends and employees.
He is preceded in death by his wife Carol, his parents and sister Eileen.
Bob leaves behind his four children: Robert L. Babington and his wife Tracy Babington, Russell R. Babington, William A. Babington, and Andrew D. Babington and his wife Deanne Babington and his grandchildren Meghan, Sam and Paige Babington.
Bob will be laid to rest alongside his beloved wife Carol in a private family service at National Memorial Park King David Memorial Gardens on Tuesday, March 24th. Due to the recent COVID-19 events, the Family will receive friends and family at a Memorial and Life Celebration to be scheduled. In the meantime, it is requested by the family to withhold sending flowers until the time that the Memorial and Life Celebration can be arranged.
- Graveside Service Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Robert Storey Babington
March 21, 2020
I remember having a lunch with Bob 20 years ago, when my two sons were very young. I was unsure of how to be a father; Bob was a seasoned veteran. He talked about how you just let sons grow to be who they are meant to be, and to help, support and love them as they go about it. He made me feel as though I could do what I needed to do; he made me feel as though the world had my back. He gave me a great deal of himself in that conversation, and what he gave seemed to flow from him effortlessly. It was a great gift.