MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Jerome Clarke Hunsaker, 1886-1984.

Papers, 1898-1969.

Manuscript Collection - MC 272

Biographical Note | Scope and Content Note


Exhibits from the collection:

Commemorating 100 Years of Powered Flight (2003)

Aeronautics in 1919: Postcard of Hunsaker's NC-4 "Flying Boat"


Jerome Clarke Hunsaker, 1886-1984, B.S. 1908, United States Naval Academy; S.M. in naval architecture, 1912, Sc.D. 1916, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an officer in the Construction Corps of the U.S. Navy, 1909-1926. In 1914, after a year studying aerodynamics and wind tunnel testing in Europe, he taught the first course in aeronautical engineering and aviation design at MIT, and in 1914 developed the first modern wind tunnel in the United States. During World War I he was in charge of all naval aircraft design, construction, and procurement. From 1926 to 1933 he worked in private industry, first at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he developed a communications system for aircraft, and then at the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, of which he was vice president. He returned to MIT in 1933 as head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, in charge of the course in aeronautical engineering, and became head of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering when it was founded in 1939. He received the (U.S.) Presidential Medal for Merit for his many contributions during World War II, including service on the President's Council of the Office of Scientific Research and Development. His work focused on flight theory and aircraft design. He designed the flying boat NC-4, the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and supervised the design of the dirigible Shenandoah, the first American rigid airship.

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4 cubic ft. (4 records cartons)
Processed November 1988 by Mark A. Vargas

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, and reports on the development of aeronautical engineering at MIT, including notes for an early history of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering; correspondence with MIT colleagues; and course notes from classes Hunsaker taught on airplane and dirigible design. Information about Hunsaker's work on the design and construction of World War I era naval aircraft and airships includes reports, articles, and newsclippings on NC-4 and the dirigible Shenendoah. His work for the government is documented in correspondence and reports to the Allied Naval Commission, 1918-1919, and correspondence with the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, 1922. Correspondence with professional colleagues include Gustav Eiffel concerning Hunsaker's translation of Air, Resistance and Aviation. Copies of Hunsaker's extensive writings on airplane design include an unpublished draft of his history, "The Development of Naval Aircraft." The collection also includes personal correspondence, biographical material, and a transcript of an oral history interview with Hunsaker conducted in 1961.

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