Dr. Frank Wilbur Hartman, 88, a leading pathologist and former medical research adviser to the Air Force surgeon general, died of heart disease Monday at the Veterans Administration Center in Martinsburg, W.Va. He lived in Potomac.

Dr. Hartman served in the Air Force Department here from 1956 to 1968. He was secretary of the Department of Defense Committee on the National Blood Research Program and chairman of the Joint International Committee on Aviation Pathology.

Before coming here, he spent 34 years as the chief pathologist and director of laboratories at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. A specialist in both experimental and clinical pathology, he helped develop the clinical pathology, he helped develop the chemical sterilization of blood and blood plasma.

He also was the odeveloper of an automatc blood pressure recorder and of a photoelectric arterial blood oxygen recorder for surgical use. He was the author or coauthor of more than 75 scientific articles.

Dr. Hartman was a member of numerous scientific organizations. He was a past president of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and the American Society and the American Society of Experimental Pathologists and a founding fellow and first president of the College of American Pathologists.

He was a founding fellow of the American Society of Cytology and belonged to the International Academy of Pathology and the American Society of Pathologists and Bacteriologists. He received numerous honors and awards.

Dr. Harman was born in Elliott, Iowa. He was a graduate of Knox College in Illinois and received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins Uiversity. He served with the U.S. Navy Medical Corps in World War I.

After his service with the Air Force ended in 1968, he spent two years as a medical officer in the bureau of drugs of the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Hartman's first marriage, to Blanche E. Bell, ended in divorce. He then married Vivian C. Behrmann, a doctor in physiology at the Henry Ford Hospital.

In addition to his second wife, of the home in Potomac, he is survived by three children of his first marriage, Frank W. Jr., and Halene Trafas, both of Long Beach, Calif., and Edna Susman, of Chevy Chase; a brother, Don B., of Tacoma, Wash., six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the music fund of the Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church. CAPTION: Picture, DR. FRANK W. HARTMAN