Aerospace Receives Donation in Remembrance of its Visionary Founder

By: Ashley Duvelius

Dr. Jones instructing two of his students.

Dr. Jones instructing two of his students.

The UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics recently received a generous donation from the relative of CEAS legend Dr. Bradley Jones. Shelly Reeder O’Rear, the great grand-niece of Dr. Jones, donated five personal text books of the late aerospace engineering founder and professor, some including his handwritten notes. Paul D. Orkwis, PhD, Director and Bradley Jones Professor of Aerospace, accepted the gift on July 5, 2013.

Jones founded the renowned UC Aeronautical Engineering program in 1929. He was a daring navigator best known for his record flight from Dayton to Boston in 1923—the first nonstop trek to rely solely on instrumentation for navigation (which he developed himself). Jones attained further fame when Charles Lindbergh insisted on having the professor’s Earth inductor compass aboard the Spirit of St. Louis to navigate his valorous solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.

Born in Boston in 1889, Jones entered MIT at the young age of sixteen and graduated with his BS in Physics in 1910. Afterwards, he embarked as first mate and navigator on a three-year cruise on board the "Carnegie," a sailing ship built solely of wood and brass, with no iron or steel that might affect a compass, funded by the Carnegie Institute. The maps Jones charted of True vs. Magnetic North variations were published and made available to mariners and aviators worldwide following the end of the voyage in 1913.

Jones then returned to teaching, moving from the University of Pittsburgh to Lehigh University to Norwich University. He finished his MS in Physics in 1914 at Norwich University and was drafted in 1917. After serving as a major in World War I, Jones taught Merchant Marine officer candidates and daydreamed about advancements in aerospace.

In his spare time, Jones developed an aviation sextant that used a two-minute fix instead of a twenty to thirty minute one. It became the official Air Service navigation technique and was still in use by the Army Air Corps in World War II. The following year, Jones created an "Earth Inductor Compass" as well as a flight indicator.

Dr. Orkwis with Dr. Jones' personal textbooks.

Dr. Orkwis with Dr. Jones' personal textbooks.

The former World War I major was consistently recognized for both his characteristic energy as well as his unparalleled expertise in the area of navigation. Naturally, Jones was selected by the University Board of Directors to develop and head the country's first co-operative education program in aeronautical engineering at UC (the university had already birthed the idea for co-op in 1906 thanks to Dean Herman Schneider). With Orville Wright as his consultant, Jones coined a five-year curriculum that combined rigorous academic requirements infused with cooperative work experience.

The UC Aeronautical Engineering program was created at the same time the Great Depression began. Yet despite the economic turmoil the country faced spanning the years of the 1930’s, UC was able to place co-op students from the program with employers in the rapidly evolving industry.

Jones went on to write and publish two books following his appointment: Avigation in 1931, and a textbook, Elements of Practical Aerodynamics in 1936, both published by John Wiley & Sons. Both of these books as well as Simple Rules and Problems in Navigation by Charles H. Cugle and revised by Bradley Jones; Easter Island by Robert J. Casey; and The Story of the Airship by Hugh Allen—which has a personal inscription to Jones by the author—were bequeathed by Mrs. O’Rear to the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Jones continued to head the department until his death in 1957.

Today, Dr. Orkwis holds the title of the Bradley Jones Professor of Aerospace and also heads the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. “The Bradley Jones Professorship of Aerospace Engineering” Fund was created in 1971 by Jones’ wife, Mrs. Emily Hays Jones, in memory of her widely respected husband.

Upon accepting the generous donation, Orkwis said, “I am personally touched to see this gift come back to the department after only a few months as director. It connects our current faculty to the outstanding founder of the department who started us down the path of excellence almost 85 years ago. The books are more evidence that we were founded by an amazing multitalented individual who was clearly visionary. We can only hope to live up to his pioneering spirit.”

As aerospace follows in its founder’s prodigious footsteps, Jones himself leaves us all with some profound advice:  “The engineer must be a far greater romanticist than the poet; for while the poet has no bounds for his whimsies, the scientist must always tie together his visions with clear reasons.”

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