Skip to main content

Department of Aeronautics records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-06-080

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of Aeronautics span the entire period that the department existed in the School of Engineering, 1946-1961. The record group is arranged as follows:
Subgroup 1: Departmental Administration, 1946-1960
Series 1: Departmental Subject Files, 1946-1960
Series 2: University Subject Files, 1946-1960
Subgroup 2: Professional Papers of Francis H. Clauser, 1946-1961
Series 1: Correspondence with Colleagues and Corporations, 1946-1960
Subseries 1: Subject Files, 1946-1960
Subseries 2: Alphabetical Correspondence, 1948-1960
Series 2: Correspondence with Professional Organizations, 1946-1960
Series 3: Correspondence with Government Agencies, 1946-1961

These records are those of Francis H. Clauser, chairman of the department and are almost solely his correspondence with colleagues at Johns Hopkins, other universities, governmental agencies and laboratories, industry and professional societies. The records cover such subjects as the plans and construction of the Aeronautics Building and the supersonic wind tunnel, the development of the curriculum of the School of Engineering and the research carried on by the members of the Department of Aeronautics.

The records present a complete history of the department and reflect the efforts necessary to build a new department largely reliant on government contracts and funding. Clauser's files also reflect the standing of the members of the department individually and collectively in the field of aeronautics for the time period, through such records as research proposal files, papers presented at professional societies, and membership on government committees.


  • Creation: 1946-1961


Use Restrictions

Education records in subgroup 1 (series 1 and 2), as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in subgroup 1 (series 1 and 2), are also restricted. For details, see Regulations Governing Access to Restricted Records, at the front of each binder.


Isaiah Bowman, at the meeting of the Advisory Board of the School of Engineering on April 12, 1946, raised the question of establishing a department of Aeronautical Engineering in the School of Engineering. The committee appointed to study the prospects of organizing such a department recommended the establishment of a "Department of Aeronautics" geared toward graduate study and research. President Bowman invited Francis H. Clauser to chair the new department. No classes were offered in 1946-1947 as Professor Clauser organized the department, including the addition of two other faculty members, Guy L. Bryan and Stanley Corrsin. The department from its inception worked closely with research institutions and government laboratories such as the Applied Physics Laboratory, the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. Personnel from these laboratories gave specialized courses to students at Hopkins. The link between the government and the department remained strong, and government contracts were an important source of research funding for the department. For example, the Navy funded a supersonic wind tunnel, which the department considered necessary to conduct its aerodynamic research. Built between 1948 and 1951, the wind tunnel was housed in the Aeronautics Building, now known as Merryman Hall.

In 1950 Leslie G. Kovasznay was appointed to the faculty, and Mark Morkovin and Robert Betchov were appointed as research scientists in 1951 and 1956 respectively. Faculty, staff and graduate students carried on a great deal of research in laboratories under the auspices of the department; this continued advanced work remained of primary importance to the department and helped to bring the Hopkins faculty and department to national prominence in the field of aeronautics. Upper-level undergraduate courses were eventually offered by the department, but were limited to students who were advanced in the engineering curriculum; a bachelors degree in Aeronautics was never offered.

Professor Clauser and the department participated in a number of episodes of the "Hopkins Science Review," including, "Flight at Supersonic Speeds," aired on February 2, 1949, and a series of three programs, "Man Will Conquer Space," aired in October 1952. The last of these three shows featured Wernher von Braun as the guest. The department's role included helping the producer and host prepare for the technical aspects of the program, obtaining models, diagrams and such for the show, and securing guests.

In order to advance Hopkins's program in Mechanics, the Chairmen of the Departments of Aeronautics, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering jointly proposed at the Advisory Board Meeting on May 3, 1960, that the three departments merge to form a Department of Experimental and Theoretical Mechanics. The Advisory Board unanimously passed the motion, adopting the name Department of Mechanics.


3.04 Cubic Feet (8 letter size document boxes)

Language of Materials



The records had been stored in the attic of Merryman Hall until its renovation in the fall of 1982, at which time they were discarded. The Archives staff retrieved the records from a dumpster on October 20, 1982.

Accession Number


Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Katrina Tautz.

Department of Aeronautics records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA