Scope and Content
Title: Robert T. Knapp papers,
Date (inclusive): 1860-1989
Collection number: 10176-MS
Creator: Knapp, Robert T. 1899-1957
3 linear feet
California Institute of Technology. Caltech Archives
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: The working papers, correspondence, publications, photos, artifacts, and biographical materials of Robert Talbot Knapp form
the collection known as the Papers of Robert T. Knapp in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology. Knapp attended
the Throop College of Technology in Pasadena, the forerunner of Caltech, and became professor there from 1951 until his death
in 1957. Knapp was widely known as a leader in the fields of hydrodynamics, fluid mechanics, and mechanical engineering.
Physical location: Archives, California Institute of Technology.
Language of Material:
Languages represented in the collection:
The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.
Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise,
is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Robert T. Knapp papers, 10176-MS, Caltech Archives, California Institute of Technology.
The Robert T. Knapp papers were donated to Caltech in two installments in 2000 by Mr. Charles Briscoe, the second husband
of Knapp's widow, Pearl Gilliland Knapp.
Robert Talbot Knapp was born January 5, 1899, in Loveland, Colorado. He received his secondary education in Los Angeles public
schools and studied for three and one-half years (fall 1916 through fall 1919) at Throop College of Technology in Pasadena,
forerunner of the California Institute of Technology. Knapp continued his studies in mechanical engineering at MIT in the
spring semester of 1920, and he received his bachelor of science degree from MIT in the same year. Knapp returned to Caltech
in 1922 as an instructor. He subsequently earned his PhD there in 1929 and became a full professor in 1951.
Knapp became widely known for his work in hydrodynamics. At Caltech he designed and directed the Hydrodynamics Laboratory,
colloquially known as the pump lab, where he conducted significant studies on hydraulic machinery, sedimentation, and high-velocity
open-channel flow. He consulted for the Los Angeles Flood Control District, the Metropolitan Water District, and for the US
Soil Conservation Service and the US Bureau of Reclamation on the Grand Coulee irrigation project. After World War II he built
and operated a hydraulic structures laboratory in Azusa, east of Pasadena, for the study of harbor problems.
Knapp's investigations covered hydrodynamic problems of hydraulic turbines and centrifugal pumps; wave and wave surge problems
of beaches and harbors; the mechanics of cavitation and cavitation damage; and problems of soil erosion, drainage and irrigation.
During World War II he served as consultant to the US Army on underwater ballistics. Knapp received the Melville Medal from
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in 1955 for his paper "Recent Investigations on the Mechanics of Cavitation
and Cavitation Damage." At the time of his death, Knapp was working on a book on cavitation, which was subsequently completed
by his coauthors, James W. Daily and Frederick G. Hammitt (
Cavitation, 1970), and which has become a standard text. In 1959 ASME established the Robert T. Knapp Award for outstanding work in
the field of fluid mechanics.
Robert Knapp married Pearl Gilliland in Los Angeles in 1925. He died suddenly in Pasadena on November 7, 1957.
Scope and Content
The Knapp collection is small but contains useful biographical material, some dating back to the Civil War. There is also
selected material on Knapp's engineering projects, and here the photographs are the most valuable records. Some photos have
been placed in documents boxes, but the majority reside in oversize boxes (boxes 4-6).
Knapp's Melville Medal, as well as a World War II medal issued by Columbia University, were also donated to Caltech by Charles
Interested researchers should consult memoirs of the pump lab: James W. Daily's "Pump Lab Reminiscences," originally published
Engineering & Science
magazine, and other accounts in Historical Files (Engineering and Applied Sciences Division); and the oral history of Allan
J. Acosta (Caltech Archives 1994). Photos of Robert and Pearl Knapp are located in the Archives' PhotoNet and are available
for viewing at the
Archives' web site
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
California Institute of Technology