Charles Loring Waite, 80, a Navy physician who retired as a rear admiral in 1976, died March 19 at Easton (Md.) Memorial Hospital. He had cancer.

Adm. Waite served 35 years in the Navy before retiring as deputy surgeon general in the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. His Navy positions included dean of the Medical School at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and fleet surgeon on the staff of the Navy's commander in chief for the Pacific.

He was the first commanding officer of the Submarine Medical Center in New London, Conn., where he taught submariners how to escape from a sunken vessel, and he was a pioneer in the testing of the Aqua-Lung and other experimental diving gear. He collaborated with Jacques Cousteau in the Navy's underwater SEALAB habitat experiment in the 1960s.

Adm. Waite was born in Washington, graduated from Wilson High School and attended the University of Maryland. In a Navy program, he transferred to Georgetown University, where he completed pre-med studies and received his medical degree. He did his medical internship at Bethesda Naval Hospital and his residency at Children's Hospital in Washington.

He was chief medical officer of an underwater demolition team during the Korean War, and he served at Navy hospitals in Jacksonville, Fla., Philadelphia and Portsmouth, Va.

His decorations included a Legion of Merit, two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, a Joint Service Commendation Medal and a Navy Commendation Medal.

For five years after his Navy retirement, Adm. Waite was a medical consultant to the Tobacco Institute in Washington. In the mid-1980s, he was a professor of clinical physiology at the University of Hawaii Medical School, then returned to this area and settled in St. Michaels, Md.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Regina Rose Perkall Waite of St. Michaels; six children, Charles Paul Waite of St. Michaels, Kathryn Ellen County of Tampa, Philip Loring Waite and Christopher Alan Waite, both of Kauai, Hawaii, Stephen Barnett Waite of Baltimore and Matthew Stuart Waite of Portland, Ore.; a sister; and six grandchildren.