Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory records
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The records of the Dynamics Analysis and Control Laboratory, 1946-1961, describe the general organization and administrative functions of the laboratory, and several research and development projects in the field of dynamic control. These files were kept by William W. Seifert. A member of the staff since 1945, Seifert also served as assistant director from 1952, and associate director from 1956. The collection has been arranged in two series: 1) Administrative Records and 2) Research Reports
The administrative records provide an overview of the activities of the Dynamics Analysis and Control Laboratory and give detailed information about personnel and their contributions to the research. Information about the organization of the DACL and its research projects, from 1950 to 1954, can be found in activity logbooks kept by Seifert and Richard C. Booton, Jr., who both served as supervisors of the Analysis and Development Group (box 1, folder 51). Lists of journal articles, and papers presented at professional meetings (box 1, folders 2-3) give an indication of the research activities of DACL staff members.
The primary strength of this collection is its documentation of several of the laboratory's research and development projects from 1949 to 1957. The laboratory's key research projects were Project METEOR, 1946-1953, and Torpedo Control and Guidance System Studies, 1951-1958, both sponsored by the Bureau of Ordnance of the U.S. Department of the Navy, and Research Services in Flight Simulation, 1953 -1958, funded by the U.S. Department of the Air Force. Included are studies of over-all systems and component development work ranging from basic research on control systems through the testing of actual prototypes.
Several studies are described in the materials pertaining to Project METEOR, which consisted of research and development in the field of guided air-to-air missiles (box 3, folders 4:19-4:21, and 4:24-4:27). The research materials have been arranged by date according to the study they pertain to and then by format (i.e. memoranda, notebooks, reports). Research funded by the Bell Aircraft Corporation and Cornell Aeronautical Institute was processed as a separate sub-series of Project METEOR, in box 3.
With the Office of Naval Research of the U.S. Department of the Navy, the Bureau of Ordnance sponsored a second project, a series of analytical and computational studies of homing-torpedo systems (box 4, folders 5:51-5:53; 6:6-6:7,6:12). The studies, from 1951 to 1958, were part of a continuing program to assist in the design of new under-water weapons. The file consists of proposals, notes, and research memoranda and reports, which have been arranged chronologically by study.
With the closeout of Project METEOR in 1953, the sponsorship of research for the Systems Analysis Group (Divisions 2, 3, 4) was transferred from the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance to the U.S. Air Force. Proposals, task statements, research memoranda, and reports describe seventeen tasks or studies performed under a contract from the Air Force for research services in flight simulation (boxes 3 and 4). Other memoranda, not specific to a study or task, have been arranged alphabetically by topic (box 3, folders 4:46-4:57; box 4, folders 5:1-5:4) and in a chronological file of correspondence, amendments, and meeting notes (box 3, folders 4:41-4:45).
Research on fluid power control systems was also continued with support from the U.S. Air Force . The research, originally supported by the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance as part of Project METEOR developed out of a need for high-speed, light-weight servomechanisms to drive the gimbals of the flight table section of the flight simulator. Information about the flight simulator, notes on the generalized computer overload system, and specifications and drawings for circuits can be found in box 1, folders 45-49; box 2.
- 1946 - 1961
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During the fall of 1945 MIT undertook a comprehensive contract from the Bureau of Ordnance of the United States Navy to research and develop a design for an air-to-air guided missile system. In October 1945, Albert C. Hall of the Servomechanisms Laboratory submitted a proposal to form a dynamic analysis and control group to research and develop a control system for the missile. Hall was familiar with this kind of research as he had supervised the development of automatic control systems for the Navy-supported BAT and PELICAN guided missile projects. Hall's group formed the nucleus of the Dynamic Analysis and Control Group of the Servomechanisms Laboratory, which became the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory in January 1946.
Six other Institute departments participated in MIT's Guided Missile Program or Project METEOR, including the Departments of Metallurgy and Physics, and Aeronautical, Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering. The program was directed by a Guided Missiles Committee chaired by Julius A. Stratton, who was then provost of MIT. Other MIT laboratories and outside industrial contractors used the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory facilities as well. At its height, the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory employed one hundred and sixty people.
Initial research efforts at the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory focused on the development of a flight simulator to study the behavior of the physical equipment used in many types of aircraft control systems. As the existing digital computers did not provide sufficient speed to perform the complex vector calculations required for the project, the flight simulator was developed as an analog computer, one of the largest of its type in the country at that time. Operational in December 1948, the flight simulator consisted of two electronic computers and a flight table on which problems related to flight stability were analyzed. The electronic computers were really high-speed calculators programmed to represent the various characteristics of the aircraft to be studied. The flight table consisted of an arrangement of gimbals delicately suspended so that they could freely incline in any direction. Set on an independent foundation, the gimbal frame rolled and pitched through the motions that the hypothetical aircraft would make in the air under the stated conditions. The motions were recorded on a chart. Visual study of the gyrations of the flight table was also important as a check to the mathematical record. The development of this flight simulator was the last large analog project carried out at MIT.
Other Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory projects included research on devices to measure strain on flight instruments and the development of miniature electro-hydraulic flight control equipment.
During the early 1950s the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory became an inter-departmental laboratory of the Departments of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. Increasing numbers of students participated in Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory research programs. Between 1947 and 1957 Department of Electrical Engineering students wrote five doctoral dissertations, sixty-five master's and eleven bachelor's theses based upon their work in the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory; while Mechanical Engineering students working in the laboratory prepared eight doctoral dissertations, twenty-two master's, and seventeen bachelor's theses.
The work of Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory staff resulted in new classroom subjects for the Departments of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. In fall 1955 Richard C. Booton, Jr. introduced course 6.602, "Nonlinear and Time-Varying Systems," which William Seifert took over in 1957 and expanded into a broader treatment of control engineering. A two-week summer program in 1956 on "Control-Systems Engineering," presented by Seifert, Carl W. Steeg, Jr., and Hideo Mori, resulted in a book on the topic. Published in 1960, Control-Systems Engineering, edited by Seifert and Steeg, brought together the contributions of several laboratory staff members. Another significant contribution based on their work was Fluid Power Control (1966), edited by John F. Blackburn, Gerhard Reethof, and J. Lowen Shearer.
The Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory was disbanded in 1958 when support from industrial and government contractors was discontinued. The sequence of reports issued by the laboratory continued until August l961 as several programs were continued as projects of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Albert C. Hall directed the laboratory from January 1946 to June 1950. In July 1950 John A. Hrones succeeded Hall as director. In February 1956 William Walther Seifert was appointed acting director while Hrones was out of the country, and in November he was appointed associate director. Seifert had been employed at the Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory since its inception, and had been assistant director starting in January 1952.
5 Cubic Feet (5 records cartons)
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- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- History Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Project Meteor
- Seifert, William A.
- Preliminary Inventory to the Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dynamic Analysis and Control Laboratory
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- The processing of this collection was partially funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education, Title II-C. The papers were reviewed for classified items.
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