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Dr. Joseph Ames
Dr. Joseph Ames (click to enlarge)

Dr. Joseph Ames
Date: 1 Jan 1920

Dr. Joseph Sweetman Ames at his desk at the NACA headquarters.

Dr. Ames was a founding member of NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), appointed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1915. Ames took on NACA's most challenging assignments but mostly represented physics. He chaired the Foreign Service Committee of the newly-founded National Research Council, oversaw NACA's patent cross-licensing plan that allowed manufacturers to share technologies.

Ames expected NACA to encourage engineering education. He pressed universities to train more aerodynamicists, then structured NACA to give young engineers on-the-job training. Ames gave NACA a focused vision that was
research-based and decided that aerodynamics was the most important field of endeavor. He championed the work of theorists like Max Munk.

The world class wind tunnels at Langley Aeronautical laboratory reflected his vision as well as the faith Congress put in him. Ames became chairman of the NACA main committee in 1927. Two years later he accepted the Collier Trophy on behalf of NACA. He kept the NACA alive when Herbert Hoover tried to eliminate it and transfer its duties to industry.

Ames accepted a nomination by air minister Hermann Goring to the Deutsche Akademie der Luftfartforschung. Ames then considered it an honor, many Americans did, and was surprised to learn about the massive Nazi investment in aeronautical infrastructure, then six times larger than NACA. Ames urged the funding for a second laboratory and expansion of the NACA facilities to prepare for war.

A stroke in May 1936 paralyzed the right side of his body. He immediately resigned as chairman of the NACA executive committee and in October 1937 he resigned from the NACA main committee.

On 8 June 1944 the NACA officially dedicated its new laboratory in Sunnyvale, Calif. to Joseph S. Ames. Ames died in 1943, having never stepped foot in the new laboratory that bears his name: the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory (known today as the Ames Research Center).

In a letter to William Durand who led the dedication ceremony, Henry H. "Hap" Arnold called "Dr. Ames the great architect of aeronautical science ... It is most appropriate that it should now be named the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, for in this laboratory, as in the hearts of airmen and aeronautical scientists, the memory of Joseph S. Ames will be enshrined as long as men shall fly."

Credit: NASA

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Last Updated: 15 Apr 2013