Gardner, the son of a radio cabinet finisher and an apartment building manager, attended both UCLA and the UC Berkeley, graduating in mechanical engineering in 1940. He worked in an oil tool business, then at Lockheed until 1944. This was followed by two years of wartime Coast Guard service in the Pacific aboard ammunition transports. He joined Vultee's thermodynamics group after returning to civilian life, working on heat exchanger installation design for nuclear-powered aircraft. He started work on the Atlas program in 1953 as a Senior Thermodynamics Engineer, concentrating on design of the Sycamore Canyon and Edwards captive firing test facilities. This led to him becoming Manager of the Sycamore Canyon facility, then Convair Manager at Vandenberg, and finally Convair's Manager of Test Laboratories, including the Point Loma and Sycamore facilities. Gardner left the Atlas program and worked on satellite launch planning for two years before his retirement in 1979.
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California.