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Byron Nelson Cooper Papers,

Identifier: Ms-1973-004

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of Byron Nelson Cooper, head of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute's Department of Geological Sciences from 1946 to 1971. Included are correspondence, writings, research data, and photographs, largely relating to Appalachian geology, particularly that of southwestern Virginia.


  • 1925 - 1971


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Byron Nelson Cooper was born the son of Frank L. and Stella P. Lynch Cooper in Plainfield, Indiana, on August 19, 1912. After graduating from DePauw University in 1934, Cooper earned his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Iowa. Both his master's thesis (1935) and doctoral dissertation (1937) focused on topics relating to the geology of southwestern Virginia. While gathering research data in Southwest Virginia, Cooper met and married Elizabeth Doyne, of Pulaski County. (The couple would have two children.) Upon completion of his Ph.D., Cooper served as assistant professor of geology at Wichita University from 1937 to 1942, then as associate geologist of the Virginia Geological Survey for four years, before being named head of the Department of Geological Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1946.

Cooper became an active advocate for his charge, building a nationally recognized department from what had been a fledgling operation. He also promoted geology--particularly Appalachian geology--among the larger lay and professional community through speaking engagements and field trips. Cooper's consulting services were frequently sought by business and industrial concerns throughout Virginia, and he often assisted local governments, particularly with issues relating to water supply. He served on the Advisory Council on Virginia's Economy and the Governor's Advisory Council on Geology and was an active member of several professional organizations.

Byron Nelson Cooper died in his campus office on March 26, 1971.


9 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


the collection contains correspondence; writings; research records; administrative, instructional, and consulting files; and photographs of Byron Nelson Cooper, professor of geology and head of Virginia Polytechnic Institute's Department of Geological Sciences from 1946 to 1971.


The collection largely retains Cooper's original order, though a few changes have been made for clarity, and an assortment of unfiled materials have either been incorporated into existing files or added as new files. Among these previously unsorted materials are most of the collection's photographs and negatives. The collection is divided into two series:

Series I. Subject Files, 1925-1971. Cooper's subject files contain materials relating to the consulting work he performed for various businesses, industries, and local governments; his activities with various professional organizations; and both his instructional and administrative duties as head of Virginia Tech's Department of Geological Sciences. Included are correspondence and memoranda, drafts of research papers, research data and notes; preparatory materials for tours, talks, and publications; maps; printed materials; and photographs. Also included is a single folder relating to Cooper's personal life. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject. In cases in which a folder contains only a titled article or speech text, the file title has been placed in quotation marks.

Series II. Photographs and Negatives, 1953-ca. 1970. The items within this series were among materials in Cooper's papers that had remained largely unsorted and unfiled. The series consists largely of images of geological samples and sites, though it also includes photos of students, facilities, and general scenery. Also included are two short, unidentified 16mm films. The series is arranged alphabetically by subject, with a folder of miscellaneous images near the end.

Physical Access

Please note: This collection is in off-site storage and requires 2-3 days notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Source of Acquisition

The Byron Nelson Cooper Papers were donated to Special Collections in 1973, 1977, and 1980.

Separated Materials

The following item was removed from Cooper's papers and added to the Historical Map Collection:

Blacksburg, Va. Zoning Map. [Blacksburg, VA?: s.n.], 1968.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Byron Nelson Cooper Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Byron Nelson Cooper Papers commenced in December, 2012, and was completed in January, 2013.

A Guide to the Byron Nelson Cooper Papers, 1925-1971
John M. Jackson
2013 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-07-30: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US