A Guide to the Earl A. Thornton Collection, 1885-1998. Thornton, Earl A. Collection Ms2010-026

A Guide to the Earl A. Thornton Collection, 1885-1998.

A Collection in
Special Collections
Collection Number Ms2010-026


Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: (540) 231-6308
Fax: (540) 231-3694
Email: specref@vt.edu
URL: http://spec.lib.vt.edu/

© 2010 By Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Carmen Boggs-Parker Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.
Collection Number
Earl A. Thornton Collection 1885-1998
Physical Characteristics
8 containers, 4.9 cu. ft.
Earl A. Thornton (Collector)
The collection includes research files, personal notes, audio recordings, videocassettes, photographs, and publications collected by engineer and Professor Earl A. Thornton on the fields of aviation, aeronautics, and aerospace.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the Earl A. Thornton Collection must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Earl A. Thornton Collection, Ms2010-026, Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Acquisition Information

The Earl A. Thornton Collection was donated to Special Collections.

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Earl A. Thornton Collection commenced in May, 2010 and was completed in June, 2010.

Biographical Information

Earl Arthur Thornton was born to Dora Weatherly Thornton and John S. Thornton in 1936. He has a brother, John S. Thornton, Jr. and a sister Elizabeth Thornton Gardner. He is married to Margaret Thornton and resides in Virginia.

Earl A. Thornton graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1959. Thornton went on to the University of Illinois to complete his Master's degree in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics before returning to Virginia Tech for a doctoral degree in Mechanical Engineering. Thornton graduated from Virginia Tech in 1968 and joined the professoriate. Thornton served at Old Dominion University (1969-1986), was a visiting scholar at the University of Texas (1987-88), and worked at the University of Virginia (1989-1999) until his retirement on May 24, 1999.Thornton authored books on thermal structures and the finite element method and is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets. Thornton is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).




Scope and Content

The Earl A. Thornton collection contains research files, personal notes, audio recordings, videocassettes, photographs, and publications on the fields of aviation, aeronautics, and aerospace. The research files include files on individuals and subject files, as well as publications.

Individuals listed include: Sir George Cayley, Octave Chanute, William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow, Frederick W. Lanchester, S.P. Langley, Otto Lilienthal, Charles Matthews Manly, Charles Fayette Taylor, Theodore von Karman, Edward P. Warner, Francis Herbert Wenham, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Pearl I. Young, and Alfred F. Zahm. Topics include: Aerodynamics, Aeronautical Education Development, Aviation Progress, Challenger Launch Decision, Development of Aircraft Structures, The Evolution of Aircraft Design, Metal Airplane Construction, Propulsion, Structures History, Trusses, Wilbur Wright Memorial Lectures, and Wing Spars and Beam Columns.


The collection is arranged in three series-Series I: Publications, 1981-1997, Series II:

Subseries A: Conference Publications contains materials published from conferences held at various NASA facilities and at the Thermal Structures conference held at the University of Virginia, as well as a short course from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Subseries B: Other Publications contains books, senate hearing transcripts, training programs, journals, and magazines. This subseries is arranged chronologically.

Series II: Research Files has two subseries.

Subseries A: Files on Individuals contains articles, pamphlets, and biographical information on individuals who had an impact on the fields of aviation and/or aeronautical or aerospace engineering and design. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by individual's last name.

Subseries B: Subject Files contain research, articles, and reports on topics related to the field of aviation and aeronautical engineering. The original folder titles were used. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series III: Audio/Visual Materials and Memorabilia has three subseries.

Subseries A: Audiocassettes contain audio taped transcriptions of "13 Famous Aircraft" given on 10-5-1978 by Paul Garber.

Subseries B: Videocassettes contain VHS recordings of documentaries, television programs, and films all related to aviation and aerospace science.

Subseries C: Prints and Memorabilia contain airplane illustrations, pamphlets, promotional photo reproductions, posters, and a visor. This series is arranged by material type.

Related Material

Separated Material

Thornton, Earl A. Aerospace thermal structures and materials for a new era.Progress in astronautics and aeronautics, v. 168. Washington, DC: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1995.

Index Terms


  • Archives of American Aerospace Exploration (AAAE)
  • Science and Technology

Contents List

SERIES I: Publications 1981-1997
  • Subseries A: Conference Publications
    • Box-folder 1-2
      NASA Conference Publications 1981, 1988, 1991, 1992
    • Box 8
      AIAA Short Course 1990
    • Box 1
      Thermal Structures Conference Proceedings 1990, 1994
    • Box 2
      Measurement Technology Conference 1992
  • Subseries B: Other Publications
    • Box-folder 3:1
      The Oases Meeting: International Egyptian Aviation Meeting 1933, 1936
    • Box-folder 3:3
      The Royal Aeronautical Society 1866-1966: A Short History
    • Box 8
      Senate Hearings before the Committee on Appropriations Fiscal Year 1971
    • Box 8
      McLean, Edward. NASA SP-4720: Supersonic Cruise Technology 1985
    • Box-folder 3:2
      "Exploring the Earth." National Geographic Magazine 1988
    • Box-folder 3:2
      American Scientist March-April 1989
    • Box-folder 3:2
      Aerospace Design Engineers Guide: Third Edition, Washington DC: March 1993
    • Box 8
      Martin Marietta Corp. Communications Satellite Training Program 1993
    • Box-folder 3:3
      American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal April-May 1997
SERIES II: Research Files 1885-1997
  • Subseries A: Files on Individuals
    • Box-folder 4:1
      Sir George Cayley: Article on Cayley
    • Box-folder 4:2
      O. Chanute: Bibliographic information, notes, and articles by and about Chanute
    • Box-folder 4:3
      William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow: Articles about Henson and Stringfellow
    • Box-folder 4:4
      Frederick W. Lanchester: Article about Lanchester
    • Box-folder 4:5
      S.P. Langley: Articles by Langley
    • Box-folder 4:6
      Otto Lilienthal: Articles and magazine by and about Lilienthal
    • Box 8
      Charles Matthews Manly Binder: b. April 24, 1876 d. October 16, 1927:
      Binder is divided into the following headings: Birth, Biographies, Cornell, Veal Biography, F. Spratt, Father, Thurston, Obituary, Papers, SAE Manly Engine, Langley 1903 Tests, Louise Manly
    • Box 8
      Charles Fayette Taylor Binder:
      Binder is divided into the following headings: MIT Libraries, Archives Finders Guide, Growing Up with the 20th Century, Engine Articles
    • Box-folder 4:7
      von Karman: Contents: Research notes and articles about von Karman
    • Box-folder 4:8
      Edward P. Warner: Article about Warner
    • Box-folder 4:9
      Francis Herbert Wenham: Article about Wenham
    • Box-folder 4:10-12
      Wright Brothers: Flyers, maps, notes, pamphlets, photographs, newsletters and articles by and about Wilbur and Orville Wright
    • Box-folder 4:13
      Pearl I. Young: Articles by and about Young
    • Box-folder 4:14
      Alfred F. Zahm:
  • Subseries B: Subject Files
    • Box-folder 5:1
      Aerodynamics: Bibliography, articles, and a report on topics related to aerodynamics
    • Box-folder 5:2
      Aeronautical Education Development: Notes and articles on topics related to aeronautical education
    • Box-folder 5:3
      Aviation Progress: Articles on topics related to aviation progress
    • Box-folder 5:4
      Challenger Launch Decision Notes and articles on topics related to the Challenger space shuttle
    • Box-folder 5:5
      Development of Aircraft Structures: Articles on the development of aircraft structures and copies of Aerospace Engineering from May-October 1989
    • Box-folder 5:6
      The Evolution of Aircraft Design: Notes, conference and papers from AIAA conference of 1978
    • Box-folder 6:1
      Metal Airplane Construction: Articles on metal airplane construction Box: 6:1
    • Box-folder 6:2
      Propulsion: Article on propulsion
    • Box-folder 6:3
      Structures History: Notes and articles on structures
    • Box-folder 6:4
      Trusses: Articles on trusses
    • Box-folder 6:5
      Wilbur Wright Memorial Lectures: Handwritten notes, bibliographic references, booklets, and articles on the Wilbur Wright Memorial Lectures
    • Box-folder 6:6
      Wing Spars and Beam Columns: Articles on topics related to wing spans and beam columns
SERIES III: Audio/Visual Materials and Memorabilia 1927-1998
  • Box-folder 6:7
    Subseries A: Audiocassettes of Paul Garber's lecture on 13 Famous Aircraft given on 10-5-1978
  • Subseries B: Videocassettes
    • Box 7
      TRACE Solar Panel Test Video: UVA Thermal Structures Lab, Summer 1998
    • Box 7
      NOVA: Rescue Mission in Space 1460; Women of Courage, 1460-2550; APOLLO 13, 2550
    • Box 7
      Paul Garber: 13 Famous Aircraft: 10/5/78, Audio Only
    • Box 7
      Challenger Report 60 min., Copied 3/26/96; Roger Boisjoly Talk
    • Box 7
      The World at War; Strategic Bombing in Europe
    • Box 7
      (1) 777-0-1471; (2) 1470-2570; (3) 2570-
    • Box 7
      TWA 800; NTSB Hearing Dec. 8, 1997: 5 hours
    • Box 7
      Research on Space Station
    • Box 7
      The Wright Stuff; The American Experience Feb. 1996
    • Box 7
      Restoration Special: Jenny Ken Hyde, National Geographic: 4574: Last Episode (Cars, etc.)
    • Box 7
      1. Amelia Earhart (American Experience) 1-1470; 2. NOVA: (Hunt for Alien Worlds) 1470-2520
    • Box 7
      Red Baron: 0-1426; A Fighter Pilot's Story: 1426-3094; A Fighter Pilot's Story 3100-4312
    • Box 7
      1. No Highway in the Sky: 0-2310; 2. Wing and a Prayer, Utah Man: 2312-3250; A and E Wright Brothers Biography
    • Box 7
      1) NOVA: DC-3: 0-1430; 2) Memphis Belle 1431-2585
    • Box 7
      NOVA: Fastest Planes in the Sky: 0-1440; NOVA: DC-3: 1440-4180; Boeing 777: 4180-4820
    • Box 7
      We Saw It Happen, United Tech. Film, Narrated by Igor Sikorsky: 120 min.
  • Subseries C: Prints and Memorabilia
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Stinson SM-8A 1931-33, DeHavilland D.H.-4B 1926-1927, artist Nixon Galloway Copyright 1981 United Airlines
    • Box-folder 3:4
      "Aircraft of the Skunk Works: A gallery of innovative designs from a small group of engineers who mastered the fine art of achieving the impossible." Air and Space Smithsonian: a supplement to the April/May 1994 issue of Air and Space/Smithsonian. Design and production by Phil Jordan, illustrations by John Batchelor
    • Box 8
      NASA Photo no. 69-HC-171 "Exercise for a Lunar Landing-The Lunar Module of Apollo 9 on Its Own in Space"
    • Box 8
      NASA Photo no. 66-HC-289 "Going for the touchdown-Apollo Rollout Atop Saturn V near the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center"
    • Box 8
      NASA Photo no. 69-HC-317 "An Open Door To Space-The Command Service and Lunar Modules of Apollo 9 Joined Together During Commander David R. Scott's Extravehicular Activity"
    • Box 8
      NASA Photo no. 68-HC-866 "Between Heaven and Earth-The Beginning of the Voyage of Apollo 8 to Circumnavigate the Moon"
    • Box 8
      NASA Photo no. 69-HC-609 "Within Reach But Not Within Grasp-The Apollo 10 Command Ship in Orbit About Sixty Miles Above the Moon"
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Men and Ideas from American Aviation
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Popular Science magazine pamphlet: Welcome to the Curtiss-Wright Exhibit of Air Power for the Next Ten Years
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Air Scoop: The aeronautical endeavors of the Naval Air Material Center, August 30, 1955
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Illustrations on Air Force F-100 Super Sabre, Air Force F-86D Sabre Jet, North American Aviation, Inc
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Crosley Division Manufacturing Corp., Quality Products for the Nation's Defense
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Visor from Bendix Aviation Corporation
    • Box-folder 3:4
      Promotional photo reproductions: H-21 Work-Horse; Navy HUP-2 Helicopter; H-21C Work Horse; YH-16 Transporter; PH-42 Transport Helicopter