Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Hans Reissner Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1881-1984
4.00 linear feet
(6 archives boxes and 5 oversize folders.)
Abstract: Papers of Hans Reissner (1874-1967), aeronautical engineer, physicist, professor, and researcher. Reissner designed the first
successful aircraft with all-metal wing and tail surfaces and the first controllable-pitch propeller. He began his career
in Germany, working with Ferdinand Zeppelin, Hugo Junkers and also teaching. He immigrated to the United States in 1938 and
taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1938-1944) and the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (1944-1954). Materials
include correspondence, much of it relating to German aviation development in the early twentieth century; published and unpublished
articles documenting Reissner's work in Germany and the United States; propeller patents (1919-1946); an aerial bombing chart
(1915); teaching materials dated after 1937; photographs of early German aircraft; and, photographs of Hans Reissner. The
Hans Reissner Papers are arranged in eight series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY HANS REISSNER,
4) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 5) LECTURES AND TEACHING MATERIAL, 6) PATENTS, 7) SUBJECT FILES, and 8) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0030
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Hans Reissner Papers, MSS 0030. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Hans Jacob Reissner was born on January 18, 1874, in Berlin, Germany. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Berlin's
Technische Hochschule in 1897, then spent a year in the United States working as a structural draftsman. Reissner returned
to Germany to study physics with Max Planck at Berlin University. In 1900 he changed direction and attended the Technische
Hochschule, where he studied under Heinrich Mueller-Breslau and completed one of the first engineering doctorates in 1902.
His dissertation was on vibrations of framed structures. Reissner joined the faculty at Berlin's Technische Hochschule, but
he also worked on outside projects, including structural analysis for Count Zeppelin. In 1904, he was awarded a fellowship
to study the use of iron in construction in the United States.
In 1906, Reissner returned to Germany and was appointed professor of mechanics at the Technische Hochschule in Aachen. Up
until this time his research had dealt with topics at the intersections of mechanics and physics, but his attention now focused
upon the new field of aviation. By 1908 he was familiar enough with the basic areas of aircraft stability, control and propulsion
to deliver a seminal paper published as "Wissenschafliche Fragen aus der Flugtechnik," the first of many articles on these
topics. Hugo Junkers, also on the faculty at Aachen, and Reissner designed and constructed the first successful all-metal
and tail-first airplane, the "Ente."
After seven years in Aachen Reissner was invited to return to Berlin's Technische Hochschule in 1913 as professor of mathematics
in the civil engineering department. During World War I he was responsible for the structural analysis of the Staaken four-engine
bomber and designed the first controllable-pitch propellers for this aircraft. He was awarded the Iron Cross for civilians
for his work.
In 1938, Reissner immigrated to the United States, where he taught first at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1938-1944)
and then at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (1944-1954). For his seventy-fifth birthday in 1949 he was honored with
the presentation of a festschrift, the REISSNER ANNIVERSARY VOLUME, at a dinner in New York.
Reissner retired from professional life in 1954 and died in 1967.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Hans Reissner Papers document the career of a professor, researcher and aeronautical engineer during the development of
early-twentieth century German aviation. The materials include correspondence, reprints, manuscripts, personal documents,
patents, mechanical drawings, and photographs. Most of the material dated prior to 1938 is in German.
The papers are arranged in eight series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY HANS REISSNER, 4) WRITINGS
OF OTHERS, 5) LECTURES AND TEACHING MATERIAL, 6) PATENTS, 7) SUBJECT FILES, and 8) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIAL series contains photographs, awards, memorabilia, and articles summarizing Reissner's career that
were published on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday and following his death in 1967. Eric Reissner's article entitled
"Hans Reissner, Engineer, Physicist and Engineering Scientist" provides a narrative of his father's life and intellectual
achievements. For additional biographical materials see also Series 2B: General Historical Files.
The "personal documents" folder is arranged chronologically and includes academic, health, residence, travel, and work records
for Reissner, as well as birth and death certificates for family members. There are also two documents from the German war
department, dated December 19, 1913, and July 3, 1914.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in two subseries: A) Hans Reissner Correspondence, A-Z and B) Eric Reissner, Reference
A) The first subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and contains correspondence with colleagues and those
involved with the patenting and construction of aircraft. There is a long exchange with Moritz Straus (1929-1946) and three
letters from Erwin Schrodinger written in 1926. The correspondence with Ludwig Durr, Ernst Uhland and Ferdinand Zeppelin
dates from the period when he worked as a structural analyst for Zeppelin. Photographs and mechanical drawings of early biplane
construction are located in the "Deutsche Versuchsanstalt fur Luftfahrt" file.
B) The second subseries consists of Eric Reissner's reference correspondence files on topics associated with his father's
work and role in aviation history. The materials are arranged alphabetically by subject. The "General Historical" files
document the contributions of Reissner, Hugo Junkers and Ludwig Prandtl to aircraft development and include photographs of
the "Ente," the first succcessful all-metal and tail-first airplane.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY HANS REISSNER
The WRITINGS BY HANS REISSNER series is arranged in three subseries: A) Published, B) Unpublished and C) Notebooks.
A) The Published subseries largely contains Reissner's journal articles and technical writings arranged according to a numbered
publication list that begins the subseries. Publications not on the list are interfiled by date. The subseries contains 54
of the 97 listed works, of which 42 are in German and 12 are in English. Although some article files include drafts, computations
and notes, most of the articles are in printed form.
B) The Unpublished subseries contains manuscript papers and analytical reports arranged alphabetically. Included is Reissner's
highly detailed structural analysis of Count Zepplin's airship entitled "Erlauterungsbericht zu dem Entwurf eines Luftschiffes
- System Sr. Excellenz, des Grafen von Zeppelin."
C) Notebooks contain reports, calculations and design specifications and are arranged alphabetically by title.
SERIES 4: WRITINGS OF OTHERS
The WRITINGS OF OTHERS series includes articles by Ferdinand Zeppelin and others about his airship, two dissertations for
which Reissner served as adviser, a collection of reviews of Reissner's publications, and reviews of the REISSNER ANNIVERSARY
VOLUME, a festschrift presented to him on his seventy-fifth birthday.
SERIES 5: LECTURES AND TEACHING MATERIAL
This series contains material in English for lectures Reissner gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the 1943
lecture entitled "Aviation Technology of Two Wars," in which Reissner reviews technical aspects of the development of aircraft
and his own contributions to aircraft structure and propeller design. The materials are arranged alphabetically.
SERIES 6: PATENTS
The PATENTS series, arranged by date, comprises Reissner's German, British and American patents for controllable pitch propellers.
The last folder in this series contains patent documentation and notes.
SERIES 7: SUBJECT FILES
This series contains mechanical drawings for airplane wings, propellers and bridges. There are brochures and accounting
information for propeller manufacturers, a 1915 ballistics chart for aerial bombing, Reissner's scrapbook of propeller photographs,
and material relating to curriculum reform for Germany's Technische Hochschule system in 1919.
SERIES 8: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
This series contains the originals of brittle or high-acid content documents that have been photocopied.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Reissner, Hans, -- Archives
Propellers, Aerial -- Design and Construction
Aeronautics -- Germany -- History -- 20th century
Aeronautics -- Technological innovations
Engineering -- Germany -- History -- 20th century
Airplanes -- Design and Construction
Zeppelin, Ferdinand, -- Graf von, 1838-1917, -- correspondent
Straus, Moritz, -- correspondent