David French

Saturday, January 15, 2011; 10:32 PM

David French, 96, a chemist who specialized in developing rubber products before becoming a missile-fuels researcher for the Navy Department, died Jan. 1 at Inova Fairfax Hospital of injuries sustained in a car accident.

Mr. French's car and another vehicle had collided Dec. 28 in Alexandria near the intersection of the George Washington Parkway and Belle View Boulevard. The cause of the accident is under investigation, said a spokesman for the U.S. Park Police.

Dr. French had worked for the Navy, at the old Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak and at what is now the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, for nearly two decades before he retired in 1978.

Previously, he had developed polyurethane rubber and plastic products for several private companies and had been employed at the Engineer Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Belvoir, where had worked to develop rubber that could be used in arctic temperatures.

David Milton French was a native of Alexandria and a 1932 graduate of Alexandria's Episcopal High School.

He graduated in 1936 from the University of Virginia, where he went on to receive a doctorate in physical chemistry in 1940.

During World War II, he worked at the U.S. Rubber Co. in Passaic, N.J., where he helped develop synthetic rubber products in support of the war effort.

Dr. French was a genealogist who produced a number of manuscripts about his family, some of which can be found in the local history collection of the Alexandria public library.

His first marriage, to Margaret Amy Craven, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Mary Smith French of Alexandria; a son from his first marriage, David French of Trout Run, Pa.; two sons from his second marriage, George French of Arlington County and Robert French of Alexandria; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

- Emma Brown

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