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Guide to the John W. Edwards Papers, 1965-2011
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical History
  • Sources Consulted:
  • Indexing Terms
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement of the John W. Edwards Papers

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John W. Edwards Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1965-2011
    Collection Number: PP12.01
    Creator: Edwards, J.W.

    Edwards, John W., 1939-2011
    Extent: Number of containers: 23

    Volume: 27.35 cubic feet of physical records, and 16.6 gigabytes of digital records
    Repository: NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, History Office
    4800 Lilly Drive
    Edwards, California 93523
    Abstract: This collection consists of physical and digital records, which include research notes and data, project documentation, presentations, publications, administrative files, correspondence, educational materials, and visual media produced or collected by Dr. John W. Edwards, an aerospace engineer who worked for the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) from 1965 to 2010. The bulk of the collection documents Edwards' career at NASA as a research engineer, from his research in flight control systems at Dryden Flight Research Center from 1965 to 1980, to his work in computational aeroelasticity and unsteady aerodynamics at Langley Research Center from 1980 to 2010.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information


    Access to portions of the collection is restricted.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright does not apply to United States government records. For non-government material, researcher must contact the original creator.

    Preferred Citation

    NASA Dryden History Office, Dryden Flight Research Center. Edwards, California. PP12.01, John W. Edwards Papers, 1965-2011, [Container number]: [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Abbreviated Citation

    NASA DFRC. PP12.01, [Container number]: [Folder number]. [Identification of item]. [Date, if available].

    Removed or Separated Material

    Most published materials not authored by Edwards were separated from the collection. These include sets of publications that Edwards grouped by author or topic, as well as NASA Technical Memos and Technical Reports. Operational administrative documents, such as human resources and administrative forms, work orders, itemized travel budgets and bills, and receipts were separated. Personal medical documentation were also separated.

    Acquisition Information

    Transfered from Dr. Edwards' family in January 2012.

    Biographical History

    John William Edwards was born in Colfax, Iowa on July 8, 1939. In 1947, his father died of a heart attack and three years later, in 1950, his mother moved with Edwards and his older brother to Portland, Oregon where she had obtained a position teaching middle school. Edwards remained in Portland until he graduated from high school and was awarded a scholarship to attend Yale University. He received a B.A. in physics from Yale in 1961 and an M.S. in physics from the University of Washington, Seattle in 1963. He served in the U.S. Peace Corps from 1963 to 1965 teaching secondary school physics in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at Haile Selaisse I University (now Addis Ababa University). In 1967, Edwards married Adelaide Majerus. They had two daughters, Susan Elizabeth (b. 1967) and Mary Joanna (b. 1968). Edwards worked at NASA as an aerospace engineer from 1965 until he retired in 2007, and continued work for NASA as a contractor to 2010.
    Edwards worked at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) between 1965 and 1980, where he helped pioneer digital flight control systems. At DFRC he worked on the Lifting Body flight test program, and in 1968 was assigned to the JetStar General Purpose Airborne Simulator project, where he developed computer programs for analysis of flight simulation experiments that were used at Dryden and by the Northrop Corporation for the next two decades. Edwards also developed computer algorithms that allowed DFRC to move flight simulation from analog methods to all-digital simulation in real time. In 1970 Edwards wrote an internal memorandum advocating for a new concept: the use of digitally-controlled remotely-piloted vehicles for flight testing. This memorandum led to the development of DFRC's Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles. Edwards was lead research engineer for the PA-30 Remotely Augmented Vehicle demonstration flight tests, and for the 3/8 scale F-15 Spin Research Vehicle flight tests. This technique of using remotely-piloted vehicles was used several projects at DFRC, including the Drones for Aerodynamic and Structural Testing (DAST), Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT), High Angle-of-Attack (Alpha) Research Vehicle, and F-8 Digital Fly-by-Wire flight programs. In recognition of his "ability to apply recently developed techniques to practical flight research programs" (NASA Langley, 2004), Edwards received the National Space Club's Hugh L. Dryden Fellowship in 1974, which allowed him to pursue his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California from 1974 to 1976.
    Edwards' Ph.D. thesis, "Unsteady Aerodynamic Modeling and Active Aeroelastic Control," was completed in 1977 and resolved a longstanding theoretical dispute in Theodore Theodorsen's unsteady aerodynamic theory. With this research, Edwards helped establish the flutter analysis methods that have since become standard in the aerospace industry.
    Edwards returned to DFRC in 1976 and was principal research engineer for the DAST program. In 1978, he developed an adaptive digital filter for the Space Shuttle in order to control pilot-induced oscillations caused by the vehicle's poor handling. The Pilot-Induced Oscillation Suppression filter Edwards developed was added to the Shuttle's flight control computer, and was used on all of the Shuttle's orbital missions. Edwards received a patent for the filter algorithm, as well as several NASA awards.
    In 1980, Edwards transferred to NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC), where he remained for the rest of his career. From 1981 to 1989 he was head of the Unsteady Aerodynamics Branch. He is credited with transitioning NASA from classical aeroelastic analysis methods to computational aeroelastics during this period. Under his management, the Unsteady Aerodynamics Branch developed the first code capable of transonic flutter analysis of complete vehicles. Called Computational Aeroelasticity Program-Transonic Small Disturbance (CAP-TSD), the code has been widely used throughout industry and academia.
    From the 1980s through the rest of his career, Edwards organized symposia and gave lectures internationally about computational unsteady aerodynamics. He taught several graduate-level courses on aeronautics at George Washington University in affiliation with NASA's Joint Institute for the Advancement of Flight Sciences, as well as at Old Dominion University and Christopher Newport College. He was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development, and NATO's Research and Technology Organization. He served on standing committees for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and was associate editor of AIAA's Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics from 1981 to 1983. He was also an active member of the Aerospace Flutter and Dynamics Council (known as the "Flutter Club") from 1979 through 2010. In 2001 Edwards was elected as AIAA Fellow
    In 1989 Edwards returned to research as a senior research engineer in the Aeroelasticity Branch at LaRC. For the rest of his career, he concentrated on two areas of research: "shock-boundary layer interactions in transonic flutter and limit cycle oscillations, and wind tunnel model and structural vibrations" (NASA Langley, 2004). He developed a new interactive viscous boundary layer coupling method, which was incorporated into the CAP-TSD code. The resulting CAP-TSDV code enabled several first-time computations throughout the 1990s, which have been used to investigate various problems, including anomalous loads on the Space Shuttle vertical tail fin, residual pitch oscillations on the B-2 Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit (Stealth Bomber), and an unsteady hydroacoustics problems on a marine pump at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
    In 1993, Edwards' calculations on Langley's National Transonic Facility (NTF) cryogenic wind tunnel led to new insights into wind tunnel resonance processes and research into the connections between acoustics and unsteady aerodynamics. In 1997 Edwards' measurements of model and tunnel vibrations in the NTF led to formation of the NTF Model Vibrations Project within the NTF Revitalization Project. In the early 2000s Edwards was also project leader for the Model for Aeroelastic Validation Research Involving Computation (MAVRIC) wind tunnel flutter model test.
    From 2000 to his retirement in 2007, Edwards was involved in several accident investigations, including the Pegasus X-43 rocket mishap investigation, the American Airlines Flight 587 Airbus crash investigation, and the Space Shuttle Columbia Return to Flight effort. His computations on the aerodynamic stability of the Space Shuttle's External Tank Protuberance Aerodynamic Load (PAL) Ramps shielding the tank's cable trays, led to the removal of the foam ramps from the Shuttle's external tank for the return to flight.
    After retiring in 2007, Edwards was appointed Distinguished Research Associate at NASA, and continued to work as a contract researcher on projects for NASA, including work for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, and on the MAVRIC project. In addition to this work, he continued to teach, give lectures, and publish papers through 2010, and continued to correspond with his peers into 2011. Edwards died June 3, 2011 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

    Sources Consulted:

    NASA Dryden History Office, Dryden Flight Research Center. Edwards, California. PP12.01, John W. Edwards Papers, 1965-2011, Box 18. An Ombudsman's Opinion. November 28, 1998.
    NASA Dryden History Office, Dryden Flight Research Center. Edwards, California. PP12.01, John W. Edwards Papers, 1965-2011, Box 13. Research and Development Classification Process (RDCP). 2004.
    Waltman, Gene. L. (2000). Black Magic and Gremlins: Analog Flight Simulations at NASA’s Flight Research Center. NASA History Division, Washington, D.C. NASA SP-2000-4520. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/pdf/88787main_Black_Magic.pdf 

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms may be used to index this collection.

    Corporate Name

    Ames Research Center
    Langley Research Center
    NASA Dryden Flight Research Center
    National Transonic Facility (U.S.)
    Langley Research Center. Unsteady Aerodynamics Branch

    Personal Names

    J.W. Edwards
    John W. Edwards, 1939-2011
    William P. Rodden


    American Airlines Flight 587 Crash, 2001
    B-2 bomber
    Computational Aeroelasticity Program - Transonic Small Disturbance (CAP-TSD)
    Computational Aeroelasticity Program - Transonic Small Disturbance Viscous (CAP-TSDV)
    Computational fluid dynamics
    DAST program
    F-15 strike eagle
    Flutter (Aerodynamics)
    Remotely piloted vehicles
    Space Shuttles--Pilot-induced oscillations
    Space Shuttles--Protuberance Air Load Ramps
    Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT)
    Unsteady flow (Aerodynamics)

    Scope and Content

    This collection consists of research notes and data, project documentation, presentations, publications, administrative files, correspondence, educational materials, and visual media created or accumulated by Edwards between 1965 and 2011, thus documenting Edwards' entire career.
    Series I contains the bulk of the physical papers. These documents are related closely to Edwards' research and professional life at NASA. These include scientific research projects (Subseries 1) his administrative documents (Subseries 2), and awards he received (Subseries 3). The files in Subseries 1 document NASA projects and research in which Edwards was involved. These include Edwards' handwritten project notes, raw data, personal correspondence, as well as formal documentation, NASA memos, and NASA technical reports. A significant portion of these documents concern the development and use of the Computational Aeroelasticity Program-Transonic Small Disturbance (CAP-TSD) and CAP-TSDV computer codes for modeling and analysis of unsteady aerodynamics and flutter.
    Series II includes presentation documents, publications, and publication drafts authored by Edwards.
    Series III contains correspondence between Edwards and his peers. A large body of correspondence between Edwards and William Rodden form a subseries, as do a set of correspondence concerning preparations for various professional conferences, and peer review of papers for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Journal of Aircraft.
    Series IV includes documents from Edwards' Ph.D. coursework as well as documents compiled and authored by Edwards for various graduate-level courses on aerodynamics that he taught himself.
    Series V is comprised of electronic records from 1995 to 2011. These include e-mail correspondence, born-digital files in multiple file formats, and optical media. Digital files include data as well as publications, reports, images, and videos.
    Series VI includes visual media, primarily photographic materials and Video Home System (VHS) tapes, many of which document wind tunnel tests at NASA.

    Arrangement of the John W. Edwards Papers

    On the series-level, an arrangement was imposed by format to create six series, with physical papers in Series I-IV, digital media in Series V, and visual media in Series VI. Additionally, Series I-IV were arranged in topical groups based on function, which is the organization suggested in Edwards' original, incomplete organization.
    Papers within each series are arranged by different methods:
    • Series I: NASA Papers, 1965-2010 is arranged primarily by project.
    • Series II: Works Authored by John W. Edwards is arranged according to publication status.
    • Series III: Correspondence is arranged by Edwards' original order.
    • Series IV: Education Papers is arranged by Edwards' role as student and teacher.
    • Series V: Electronic Records, 1995-2011 is arranged by Edwards' original order.
    • Series VI: Visual Media is arranged by format.
    Materials within folders retain Edwards' original order where possible. A large portion of the collection was not arranged into folders by Edwards, but were ordered loosely by subject. New folders were created for these materials.
    Arrangement is as follows:
    • I. NASA Papers, 1965-2010
      1. Project Documents
      2. Administrative Records
      3. Awards
    • II. Works Authored by John W. Edwards
      1. Presentations
      2. Publications and Drafts
    • III. Correspondence
      1. Bill Rodden
      2. Conference Planning
      3. Other
    • IV. Education Papers
      1. PhD Coursework
      2. Teaching
    • V. Electronic Records, 1995-2011
      1. E-mail
      2. Electronic Files
      3. Optical Media
    • VI. Visual Media
      1. Photographs, Negatives, and Film Strips
      2. Two-inch Projection Slides
      3. Video Home System (VHS) Tapes