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Robert R. Gilruth Papers

Identifier: Ms-1990-053

Scope and Content

The collection consists of Robert R. Gilruth's papers, notes, records, articles, photographs, awards, degrees, certificates, and artifacts. A majority of the collection contains professional papers from Gilruth's work in NACA and NASA, including speeches and presentations, reports, photographs, oral history transcripts, notes, and newpapersclippings, as well as certificates, awards, and artifacts. Personal materials include a typescript diary, Gilruth's 1936 M.S. Thesis, and an unpublished memoir.


  • 1936 - 1989


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This 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

Robert R. Gilruth (1913-2000) was an aerospace engineer and NACA/NASA administrator. He received his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the University of Minnesota (1935), as well as his M.S. (1936). Gilruth was also a flight research engineer for Langley Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (1937-1945). From 1945 to 1950, he worked as chief of the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division, and assistant director (1950-58). He headed the Space Task Group for NASA (1958-61), and was charged with directing Project Mercury. From 1961 to 1972, he was the first director of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston.

The NASA website has a number of more extensive resources on Gilruth's work, including interviews and press releases, discoverable by searching the site for "Gilruth."


6.6 Cubic Feet (6 boxes; 7 oversize folders)


The collection consists of Robert R. Gilruth's papers, notes, records, articles, photographs, awards, degrees, certificates, and artifacts from 1936-1989.


Materials in the collection are in their original physical order. Newspaper clippings and oversize materials were removed from boxes and are located in flat files. The contents list below shows the collection grouped by subject or material type into nine series, arranged alphabetically by series title.

Series I: Artifacts includes awards and other objects collected by or given to Gilruth during his career.

Series II: Awards, Certificates, and Degrees contains a variety of certificates marking Gilruth's achievements, degrees, and memberships to organizations.

Series III: Correspondence includes primarily incoming professional letters and telegrams received by Gilruth.

Series IV: Interviews and Memoirs consists of transcripts and memoirs relating to Gilruth and other aeronautics professionals.

Series V: Lectures and Speeches contains texts and drafts of speeches given by Gilruth.

Series VI: Newspaper Clippings includes a variety of complete newspapers and specific articles about or collected by Gilruth.

Series VII: Personal Papers consists of diaries, itineraries, writings, and other personal materials.

Series VIII: Photographs contains photographs of professional projects, including Gemini and Apollo missions, as well as images of colleagues and NASA locations.

Series IX: Reports, Notes, and Professional Writings consists of writing created by Gilruth during his career, notes, research articles, and subject files.

Source of Acquisition

The Robert R. Gilruth Papers were donated to Special Collections and University Archives in multiple accessions during 1990 and 1994.

Separated Materials

The following books were removed to the Rare Book collection:

  • Spacewatch, Screening Copy/27:40 (Video Cassette)
  • Shaping Tomorrow, NASA-Langley 70th Anniversary, 17 July 1987 (Video Cassette)
  • Gemini Program, Ivan D. Ertel
  • This Was Air Travel, Henry R. Palmer, Jr.
  • 10:56:20PM EDT 7/20/69, CBS News over CBS Television Network
  • Arizona Highways, Raymond Carlson
  • Men of Space, Shirley Thomas
  • Frontiers of Astronomy, Fred Hoyle
  • Model Research: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics 1915-1958, Volumes 1 & 2, Alex Roland
  • Biomedical Results from Skylab, Richard S. Johnston and Lawrence F. Dietlein
  • Wind Tunnels of NASA, Donald D. Baals and William R. Corliss
  • The Moon Book, Bevan M. French
  • A Continent for Science: The Antarctic Adventure, Richard S. Lewis
  • Engineer in Charge, James R. Hansen
  • Managing NASA in the Apollo Era, Arnold S. Levine

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Robert R. Gilruth Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

An initial description of the collection was completed after the donations in the 1994. In October and November 2012, the papers were re-housed as needed, books were removed for cataloging, artifacts were moved to a new box, and a finding aid was completed.

Robert R. Gilruth Papers, 1936-1989
Tyler Dodson, Student Assistant, and Kira A. Dietz, Archivist
2012 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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