Paul Albert Smith, 78, a retired rear admiral with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, died at Arlington Hospital June 4 following a heart attack.

Adm. Smith joined the survey in 1924, He was an expert in aerial charts and was a former chief of the survey's aeronautical chart branch. From 1946 until shortly before his retirement in 1954, he was assigned to the State Department as a U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.

He helped introduce the use of plastic sheets in cartography and assisted the Air Force in developing plans and specifications for world aeronautical charts.

Adm. Smith also participated in research of submarine canyons off the Atlantic coast of North America and in topographic studies of the Pacific coastal areas. He worked on the behavior of sound in sea water and the use of sound in hydrographic surveys.

Following his retirement, Adm. Smith served as an adviser to the Air Force and to the Rand Corp. In 1964, the Air Force cited him for his exceptional civilian service. He also recieved the Exceptional Service Award of the Department of Commerce.

His survivors include his wife, Sylvia, of the home in Arlington, a son, Paul A. Jr. also of Arlington, and a daughter, Kathryn, of New Haven, Conn.

The family suggest that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Paul A. Smith Memorial Fund, Geophysical Institue Library, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99701.