Peter John Vogelberger Jr., a retired
nuclear engineer and past president of Teledyne Energy Systems who
headed the development of devices used in 1970s space exploration, died
of undetermined causes Sept. 7 at his Lutherville home. He was 82.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, he
was the son of Peter J. Vogelberger Sr. and the former Agnes
Snyderwine. A standout high school athlete, he was recruited to the Naval Academy, where he was a member of the Class of 1954 and was an honors graduate. He played quarterback on the football team.
He served for two years aboard the
attack carrier USS Philippine Sea in the Pacific and then joined the
Submarine Service. He attended Officers' Basic Submarine School in New
London, Conn., and spent two years aboard the USS Darter, an attack
In 1959, he entered training at the
Submarine Nuclear Power Program and was stationed at the Nuclear Power
Training Unit, Combustion Engineering Naval Reactors Division in
He was gunnery officer on the
commissioning crew of the USS Snook, a nuclear-powered attack submarine,
in 1961. He spent two years in the Western Pacific.
He left the Navy as a lieutenant
commander in early 1963 and was later a commander in the reserves. He
became a nuclear engineer at the Reactor Operations Division of the Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill.
Mr. Vogelberger then joined Isotopes
Inc., where he managed a competition for an early food irradiation plant
that was a joint venture of the Atomic Energy Commission, Martin
Marietta, Uniroyal and Alpo. Family members said that in the Cold War,
he and his team explored the process of canning food that would, in
theory, survive a nuclear attack.
He then joined Teledyne Isotopes Inc. as a marketing manager based in Westwood, N.J.
"He was an intelligent man, dedicated
to his family, the welfare of his children and to the Navy," said his
son, Peter C. Vogelberger of Birmingham, Ala. "He loved the Chesapeake
Bay, Ocean City and the Naval Academy, and we always had boats."
When Teledyne acquired the former
Martin Marietta Nuclear Division, then based in Middle River, in 1968,
Mr. Vogelberger moved to Baltimore's Homeland neighborhood and lived on
Mr. Vogelberger spent 26 years at what
is now Teledyne Energy Systems Inc. of Hunt Valley. He held several
positions, including general manager and president, and retired in 1994.
Mr. Vogelberger worked to enlarge the business after a government defense contract was canceled in 1969.
"Our sales dropped off by 40 percent
and we had a substantial reduction in force, but we survived and
prospered," he said in a Teledyne publication published at his
retirement. "After that experience I promised myself we'd never be that
As president of Teledyne Energy
Systems, he led the company to become the prime supplier of
thermoelectric generators for energy conversion devices. He and his
teams worked on the creation of a commercial hydrogen generation product
used in remote controls for gas and oil pipelines and in hydrogen
generators for metals refining, semiconductor manufacturing and electric
"Perhaps his most significant
achievement was his leadership at Teledyne on NASA's Pioneer and Viking
programs to Jupiter and Mars," said Jay Laskin, a retired Teledyne
director of marketing and sales who lives in Pikesville. "They carried
Teledyne's radioisotope thermoelectric generator power supplies."
A 1972 article in The Baltimore Sun
noted that his company made four nuclear generators carried on the
Pioneer spacecraft sent to explore Jupiter.
"The nuclear generators convert heat
from decaying radioactive plutonium-238 into electricity," the article
said. "During the past ten years, the company has pioneered nuclear
power systems for space and terrestrial uses."
In 1976, his photo appeared in The Sun
with Rep. Clarence D. Long at the Teledyne plant, then in Timonium. The
congressman congratulated Mr. Vogelberger and his engineers who designed
a generator for the Viking spacecraft.
Then-Gov. Spiro T. Agnew named Mr. Vogelberger to the Maryland Advisory Commission on Atomic Energy in 1968.
Mr. Vogelberger remained active in
Naval Academy alumni circles. He also served on Sen. Barbara A.
Mikulski's Service Academy Nominations Board.
He also had homes in Little River, S.C., and Selbyville, Del.
Services are private.
In addition to his son, survivors
include his wife of 60 years, the former Marianne "Inky" Crane, a
retired nurse; another son, Mark S. Vogelberger of Cockeysville; two
daughters, Susan Torrence of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Holly
McGarvey of Cockeysville; and nine grandchildren.