William E. Harman, 79, a retired chief of the aerial photography section of the U.S. Geological Survey and a former director of the American Society of Photogrammetry, died of pneumonia and heart ailments Dec. 25 at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va.

Mr. Harman, a resident of Arlington until moving to a nursing home in Stafford, Va., about 1981, was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. He graduated from Louisiana State University and began his federal career working for the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga.

In 1940, he moved to Washington and joined the Geological Survey. His work concerned aerial photographs for use in making topographical maps. After his retirement in 1969, he worked for a few years as a contract official with the Mark Hurd company, an aerial photography firm.

Mr. Harman wrote the chapter on aerial photography for the "Manual of Photogrammetry" published by the American Society of Photogrammetry. He was a member of the Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers and the council of its Washington chapter.

He also was a member of the St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington.

Survivors include his wife, Dorothy of Arlington; one daughter, Priscilla Ann Posch of Arlington; three sons, Thomas E., of New York City, Michael M., of Alexandria, and Patrick W., of Springfield; one sister, Mrs. Robert Delaney of Panama City, Fla., and 10 grandchildren.