Skip to main content

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics student records

Identifier: AC-0253

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of student records kept by the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1920-2009. Undergraduate student folders may contain part of the student application; reports on academic standing, including copies of grades; professors' evaluations; and disciplinary actions. Graduate student folders may contain MIT applications; reports on academic standing, including copies of grades; correspondence with professors about theses and exams; and letters of recommendation.


  • Creation: 1920 - 2009


Conditions Governing Access

This collection requires permission for access. Records are restricted for 75 years from the date of creation. Contact Distinctive Collections for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Historical Note

The history of aeronautical engineering began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1896 when Albert J. Wells, class of 1896 (mechanical engineering), designed and built a small wind tunnel as part of his thesis. By 1910, interest in aeronautical engineering had grown considerably and the Alumni Council recommended to the Executive Committee of the Corporation that MIT establish a course in aeronautics and fund the construction of a new wind tunnel. In 1913 the Executive Committee provided money for a new wind tunnel and Jerome C. Hunsaker was hired to teach aeronautical engineering in the Department of Naval Architecture. Hunsaker’s first course in 1914 was 13.72, Aeronautics for Naval Constructors. Until 1926, aeronautical engineering was a graduate course only.

In 1920 administrative control of aeronautical engineering was transferred to the Department of Physics, and in 1926 Course XVI, Aeronautical Engineering, was created, offering undergraduate courses for the first time. In 1928 the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory and the Aeronautical Library opened and classes in meteorology began as part of the course.

In 1933 Hunsaker became head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and administrative control of Course XVI was transferred to Mechanical Engineering from the Department of Physics. Two years later, in 1935, Charles Stark Draper established a small instruments laboratory to provide graduate students with experience in guidance and control systems.

A separate Department of Aeronautical Engineering was established in 1939, with Hunsaker as the first head of the department. In the same year the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel began operation. The department rapidly expanded to meet wartime needs. Three laboratories opened during World War II: Flutter Research, Vibrations Measurements, and Structures. In 1942 Draper’s laboratory, renamed the Confidential Instrument Development Laboratory, began research and development work on military guidance and control systems.

After the war almost all of the major research activities in the department were performed for the United States military. The beginning of space exploration brought further changes to the department, and in 1959 the name was changed to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The Center for Space Research opened in 1963 and was joined the following year by the Experimental Astronomy Laboratory (later the Measurements Systems Laboratory) and the Space Propulsion and Man-Vehicle Laboratories.

MIT History, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2020.


93.3 Cubic Feet (92 record cartons, 4 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed collection inventory is available to staff in the MIT ArchivesSpace staff interface.

Processing Information

In spring 2021, this finding aid was revised as part of a project to publish previously unpublished finding aids. The finding aid was brought up to minimum description standards and any personally identifying information in the description was removed.

Preliminary Inventory to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics Student Records
Ready For Review
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements and to remove personally identifying information from the description.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US