Pioneer, Society Supporter, Harold D Langley – Vixit

We are sad to note that historian Harold D Langley, an early instigator of the notion of a society to support scholarly work in the history of maritime medicine and a mentor, Board member, and the namesake of our Harold D Langley Book Prize for Excellence in the History of Maritime Medicine, has passed away at age 95.

Here is his obituary. It details a rich and accomplished life:



Harold D. Langley, diplomatic and naval historian who was Associate Curator of naval history at the Smithsonian Institution from 1969 to 1996, died on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 after an extended illness. He was 95. As a naval historian, he was a pioneer in exploring American naval social and medical history. Born Harold David Langley, the son of Walter B. Langley and Anna Mae McCaffrey and the fourth of six children, he grew up in Amsterdam, NY. Upon his graduation from high school, he was drafted into the Army of the United States and served from 1943 to 1946, receiving, along with his unit, the Army Meritorious Service Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. After his military service, he attended the Catholic University of America (CUA), where he earned his B.A. in 1950. He then earned his M.A. in 1951, and his Ph.D. in 1960, from the University of Pennsylvania, the latter with a dissertation which became his first published book, Social Reform in the United States Navy, 1798-1862. He began his professional career at the Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, in Washington, DC in 1951. After working as a manuscript specialist in Washington and Pennsylvania, in 1955, Marywood College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, appointed him Assistant Professor of history. He was next appointed as a Diplomatic Historian in the U.S. Department of State in 1957. In 1964, CUA appointed him Associate Professor, and in 1968 promoted him to Professor, which he held until 1971. In 1969, the Smithsonian appointed him Associate Curator of Naval History. While holding that position, he was also an Adjunct Professor at CUA beginning in 1971. In 1965, he married Patricia Ann Piccola. The couple settled in Arlington, VA and had two children. In 1996, he retired from the Smithsonian, and continued teaching at CUA until 2001. After he retired from teaching, he remained active in the history field, writing articles for historical journals, reviewing books, and working on a book. He also traveled regularly to history conferences in the United States, contributing presentations and helping with others. In 2017, he was diagnosed with dementia and curtailed his travels to conferences. Despite the challenges this condition presented, he continued writing articles and book reviews for historical publications. As his condition progressed, he moved to an assisted living facility in Alexandria, VA in late 2019, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Sweeney, of Albany, NY; his brother, Roger Langley, of Rockville, MD; his son, David Langley, of Alexandria, VA; his daughter, Erika Langley, of Bremerton, WA; and many nieces, nephews and cousins, along with their families. His wife, Patricia, predeceased him in 2013. The family will receive friends and relatives at a viewing at Advent Funeral and Cremation Services, 7211 Lee Highway, Falls Church, VA 22116 on August 6, 2020 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 1910 N. Randolph St., Arlington, VA 22207 on August 7, 2020 at 10:30 a.m., followed by the interment ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery, 18424 Joplin Rd., Triangle, VA 22172, at 1 p.m. More information about Harold D. Langley’s life and accomplishments can be found online at

About thomaslsnyder

Retired urological surgeon and navy reservist. Writing the history of the Navy's first hospital on the U S west coast, at Mare Island, California. Founder and Executive Director, the Society for the History of Navy Medicine. Founder and Coordinator of the Albany Base Hospital No. 33 Society, a military affinity group at Albany Medical College, my alma mater. Past Commander of the San Francisco Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States and founder and past Commander of the Naval Order's "virtual" Continental Commandery. Naval Order Ship's Store manager and Assistant Treasurer General. Member of the Solano County (California) Historical Records Commission.
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