James Frank Moulton Jr.

Nuclear Physicist

James Frank Moulton Jr., 82, a nuclear physicist who devised methods to measure shock waves from explosions, died May 7 at the Riderwood Village retirement home in Silver Spring. He had Parkinson's disease.

Mr. Moulton spent nearly 40 years as a research scientist with the Department of the Navy and other defense agencies and was one of the nation's leading authorities on nuclear explosions. He began his career with the Navy in 1943 and, from 1946 to 1965, was chief of the air-ground explosions division at the former Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak.

His work was highly classified, and for many years his family had little knowledge of his actual responsibilities. Early in his career, he found ways to measure and photograph the effects of shock waves from nuclear explosions. In the 1950s, he wrote a three-volume government handbook that assessed the effects of nuclear blasts.

From 1965 to 1968, Mr. Moulton was chief of the naval effects branch in the blast and shock division of the Defense Atomic Support Agency. From 1968 to 1979, as director of the aerospace systems division of the shock physics directorate of the Defense Nuclear Agency, now called the Defense Special Weapons Agency, he planned multimillion-dollar testing programs for strategic missiles and nuclear weapons. He helped direct underground nuclear tests for the Defense Department and advised the Atomic Energy Commission on the blast effects and radiation associated with nuclear detonations.

From 1946 to 1965, he witnessed all but one of the nation's 16 atmospheric nuclear tests. An amateur photographer, he would often take pictures of the blasts and of his colleagues. Some of those photographs have been reproduced in histories of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Moulton published dozens of research papers and won many scientific awards, as well as commendations for his service to the Department of Defense. He retired in 1979 but continued to serve as a consultant to defense agencies and consulted on other scientific matters.

He was born in Washington and graduated from St. John's College High School. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Georgetown University in 1943 and did graduate work in physics at the University of Maryland.

After retiring as a physicist, he took up a second career as a commercial photographer and, over a period of almost 20 years, photographed hundreds of weddings. He lived in Kensington from 1952 to 2002 and was a member of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kensington.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Jeanne Brady Moulton of Silver Spring; a daughter, Margaret Moulton O'Hehir of Annapolis, and a son, James Stuart Moulton of Martinsburg, W.Va.; seven grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

Hilton Edmund Luke PremDas


Hilton Edmund Luke PremDas, 89, a public school educator in Baltimore and Washington, died of complications from a stroke May 16 at Heartland Health Care Center in Hyattsville.

Mr. PremDas, a resident of Washington for 72 years, was born in Georgetown, British Guiana, and migrated with his mother to Canada, then to the United States. He graduated in 1934 from the District's Dunbar High School, where he became a star tennis player and an orator.

He received a bachelor's degree in Spanish and English at Miner Teachers College, now part of the University of the District of Columbia. But upon his graduation, there were no openings for teachers in the all-black schools of the District of Columbia. So he continued his studies at Miner and earned an additional degree in elementary education.

The Baltimore school district hired him to teach mathematics and English, thus beginning a 37-year career and a daily commute to Baltimore, long before interstates or parkways provided a stoplight-free drive.

Mr. PremDas became a teacher and department head in foreign languages at Baltimore's Douglass High School. He was an early user of instructional television, language laboratories, tape recorders, integrative methods of teaching and many more innovative techniques for that period. He served for many years on the Board of Examiners, interviewing and screening prospective foreign language teachers for the Baltimore schools.

In the evenings, he taught Spanish literature at what was then Baltimore Junior College. In summers, he taught at the District's Dunbar and Cardozo high schools and at Shaw Junior High. He retired in 1978, and in retirement, he taught adult education at Armstrong High School and the Naval Research Laboratory, and English as a second language at Sacred Heart School.

Mr. PremDas was a member of the local and national Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. He received a master's degree in Spanish literature from Catholic University in the mid-1950s. He also studied administration and supervision, and other languages including Russian and German at the University of Delaware, American University, New York University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's continuing education program, as well as at the Berlitz schools.

He enjoyed real estate investing and played both tennis and table tennis. Mr. PremDas was a member of the Pigskin Club of Washington and the Bachelor Benedict Club of Washington, D.C., a social organization. He was baptized as an Anglican, but after moving to the United States, he became active in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Later, as he attempted to resolve the segregationist attitude of Washington with his faith and philosophy, he inclined toward Unitarianism.

Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Almira Perry PremDas of Washington; three children, Perry PremDas of Frankfurt, Germany, and Philip PremDas and Evangeline PremDas Hill, both of Washington; and four grandchildren.