May 21, 1914 Portland Multnomah County Oregon, USA
Aug. 25, 1976 San Diego San Diego County California, USA
Born to parents Robert N.(1883) and Clara Burdette(1886) McCLEAN in Oregon 1914. Bill` father brother and both grandfathers were Presbyterian ministers. As a result he was a religious man with high principles. The Family wound up in Eagle Rock, LA Co. in 1919 where Bill attended school and graduated in 1931. In the same year he entered Caltech. He started studies in electrical engineering however was soon urged by Dr. Ernest Watson to change to a Physics major. He received a B.S. in 1935, a M.S. in 1937 and completed his Ph.D in 1939. For a brief time (1939-1941) Bill taught a graduate class in advanced theoretical physics and nuclear physics.
When World War II started, McClean went to work for the Goverment in Washington DC where he worked on ordnance fusing, rockets, arming devices and fire control systems.
In 1945, near the end of the war Bill was invited to join a new Caltech outgrowth at Inyokern called NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station). Since his great interest was in experimentation and the job was in California, he accepted gladly. Bill`s first assignment was to head up the Aviation Ordnance Dept. Nine years later, 1954 he was appointed NOTS Technical Director. While in this position he took charge of developing the SIDEWINDER air-to-air missle which was his own idea. In the beginning he developed a guidance head that simply screwed on to a stamdard 5 inch rocket. He spent much of his own time on the project and finally in 1956, received a $25,000 award from the Navy. The very successful SIDEWINDER was only one of the many high points in Bill`s career.