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Dr. Hans von Ohain Papers

Identifier: MS-335

Scope and Content

Series I, Correspondence: Contains correspondence from 1936-1996 mostly of a professional nature. The correspondents usually include supporting documents that offer a dialogue of communication which can include pictures, drawings and even new invention ideas.

Series II, N.A.S.M./Additional Archival Notes: Contains correspondence and supporting documentation of Dr. Ohain's relationship with the National Air and Space Museum (N.A.S.M). The series spans from 1945-1997. 1966-1976 deals entirely with an exhibit that featured some of Ohain's engine work. N.A.S.M. received a great deal of Ohain's personal papers and we have included the Deed of Gift signed for this exchange along with the Heinkel archive list in Stuttgart, Germany, Junkers item list and a document related to German retrieved war documents.

Series III, Speeches: Contains information pertaining to his speeches and the briefing presentations given while employed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The time span for this series is 1963-1997. He gave more speeches later in his life after retirement in 1977. Most of the speeches deal with the history of jet propulsion or topics related to his research with the government.

Series IV, Jet History: Contains an interesting collection of articles, manuscripts, notes, oral history and time lines relating to jet history including Ohains experiences in Germany. It covers 1951-1996 and contains six folders of information without dates.

Series V, Patents: Contains patent related information from 1907-1997. The patents range from Ohain's work with the Heinkel Company in Germany to his research with the University of Dayton and independent ventures. An oversize file contains blueprints dealing mostly with the Swirl Chamber Device. Many of the patent folders contain (ARL) created technical booklets that relate to the patents. This series also contains a file of contracts and wills from1954-1984.

Series VI, Sir Frank Whittle: Contains information and supporting documentation related to awards from 1966-1992. Many of the awards he received are not a part of the collection. Yet the series provides an adequate overview of the type and nature of awards Ohain received and it contains a hand signed letter of congratulations from President George Bush for Ohain's Draper Prize award. A complete listing of his awards and accommodations can be found in Appendix B of the book Hans von Ohain: Elegance in Flight by Margaret Conner. An oversized box houses the larger awards and an honorary degree.

Series VII, Awards: Contains a single file of documents that relates to Sir Frank Whittle the British co-inventor of the jet engine which include, news clippings, correspondence and patent related materials. The series spans from 1930-1996, additional pictures of Whittle are located in the Correspondence Series 1 and the Wright State University Special Collection and Archives houses an additional collection of Frank Whittle papers MS-241 donated by General Electric in 1992. It consists of design and technical reports, correspondence, photographs and technical drawings and charts.

Series VIII, General Technical Articles: A collection of various scientific articles ranging from 1923-1996. The articles deal with a range of topics and were written by numerous authors.

Series IX, General Booklets, Journal Articles, Brochures, Newsletters, and News Clippings: Series 9 is a collection of general scientific booklets, journal articles, press releases, brochures and magazine articles from 1925-1992.

Series X, ARL Technical Books and Articles: A collection of (ARL) created scientific booklets and articles from 1959-1989. Ohain was a contributing author of many of these papers and many of the papers directly relate to his research and patents.

Series XI, General Technical Notes and Drawings: Contains general scientific notes and drawings from 1958-1996. This series is interesting because it documents some of his ideas that never made it to be patented and it shows the progression of an idea. Thirteen of the seventeen folders do not have dates but reflect the folder titles given to the information by Ohain himself.

Series XII, Teledyne: Contains documentation of Ohains relationship with the then Akron, Ohio based company Teledyne. It spans from 1979-1984. This series documents some of his post retirement activities and his continued contribution into the field of engine development.

Series XIII, University of Dayton Lecture Notes: Contains information relating to Ohain's time as a professor at the University of Dayton and spans from 1984-1987. The series consists of lecture notes, exams and aero-propulsion information. He also taught at the University of Florida but this collection does not contain any documents from that position.

Series XIV, Photographs/Postcards: Consists of images grouped into three categories, Photographs from the early 1930's Germany (street scenes with swastikas) and Postcards featuring scenes from Germany, Airplanes/Engines and Group photographs with miscellaneous images.

(Note:-Most series within this collection contain photographs that were found with supporting documentation. Series 14 is a compilation of photographs and postcards that were found without any accompanying documentation.)


  • Creation: 1907-2003


Language of Materials

Some documents are in German and French, but the majority of the collection is in English.

Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of Hans von Ohain

Dr. Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain was born on December 14, 1911 in Dessau, Germany. He along with Sir Frank Whittle (1907-1996) are the co-inventors of the jet engine. As a child he had an interest in science and enjoyed physics and creating models. He received his doctorate in Physics and Applied Mechanics in 1935 at the University of Goettingen in Germany. Upon graduation von Ohain remained at the university for an additional year and privately developed a theory of turbojet engines. In 1936 he began an association with the Heinkel Company. Heinkel was enthusiastic about the potential for jet flight and offered the necessary financial assistance that supported the development of the turbojet.

Von Ohain developed and designed the HeS.3B engine that powered the He.178 plane that made the world's first turbojet flight on August 27, 1939. The engine was made by Max Hahn and was flown by pilot Erich Warsitz. A number of weeks after the first flight, Adolph Hitler was persuaded to observe a demonstration. Ohain stated that he seemed unfriendly, icy cold and unwell. He asked an assistant what was wrong. The assistant said that the demonstration had been too early, "the fuhrer (leader) does not like to get out of bed before 11 a.m." Hitler did not see the need for a new engine, commenting "why is it necessary to fly faster than the speed of sound?" Hitler was expecting a short war.

When applying for the patent for his new invention, Ohain was informed of the existence of British scientist Sir Frank Whittle's patent. But because of significant differences between the two patents, Ohain was granted his own patent. Later, once Ohain and Whittle met they concluded that they had worked entirely independently of one another and that their discoveries were an example of simultaneous invention.

Ohain received more than 50 company patents relating to radial and axial turbojet engines from 1935-1945. He lost all rights to these inventions with Germany's defeat in WW II. He left Heinkel in 1945 and worked independently while conducting consultant work on gas turbine engines. In 1947 he began contract work with the U.S. Army Corps on advanced air breathing propulsion systems. He was part of Operation Paperclip, which was the codename for the operation by the U.S. government to take Rocket Weapon (e.g. V-1, V-2), Chemical Weapon (e.g. Zyklon-B), and medical scientists from Germany after World War II. The operation was called "Paperclip" because a paperclip was put on the files of those scientists deemed important to the U.S.

Operation Paperclip led von Ohain to permanent employment at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and citizenship status in America. He continued his aerospace research and from 1956-1975 he obtained 24 patents at the Aerospace Research Laboratory (ARL). In 1963 he was promoted to the position of Chief Scientist of ARL. He managed nearly all Air Force physical and engineering research. By 1975 Ohain was promoted to Chief Scientist of the Aero Propulsion Laboratory (APL) where he was responsible for maintaining the technical quality of research/development in air breathing propulsion, power and petrochemicals.

He conceptualized and demonstrated the "jet wing" concept to provide cold air thrust augmentation for vertical and short takeoff and landing aircraft. The Navy used this idea with the experimental XFV-12AS fighter. In addition he showed that the potential efficiency of an electro fluid dynamic generator (in which the energy of fluid gases is converted directly into electricity without using moving parts) could be used as a practical power source. He also developed concepts for the economical retention of nuclear fuel in a gas core reactor which enabled further research of its use in high thrust-to-weight space propulsion systems. During his 32 years of government service, Dr. von Ohain published more than 30 technical papers. He received many awards including the Goddard Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Air Force citations, the Guggenheim Medal, Ludwig Prandtl Ring and the Stark Draper Prize. He is enshrined in the "International Hall of Fame" Engineering and Sciences "Hall of Fame" and the "National Aviation Hall of Fame." He also served as the Charles Lindbergh Professor of the National Air and Space Museum-Smithsonian Institute and received honorable Doctor of Science degrees from West Virginia University of Morgentown and at the University of Dayton.

After retirement, Ohain worked as a professor at the University of Dayton from 1982-1988. He received 5 patents with the University of Dayton Research Institute. He and his wife moved to Florida and Ohain continued to participate in speaking engagements around the world and teaches at the University of Florida. He continued to work on independent research projects and received his only independent patent in 1998. Ohain died on March 13, 1998 in Melbourne, Florida. He left behind his wife, four children and grandchildren.


11 linear feet


Dr. Hans von Ohain was the co-inventor of the first successful jet engine. After World War II, he moved to Dayton, Ohio where he was a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. His papers contain patents, correspondence, speeches, technical reports, scientific articles, awards, and photographs. Some documents are in German and French, but the majority of the collection is in English.

Statement of Arrangement

The Hans von Ohain Papers is arranged into 14 series:

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: N.A.S.M./Additional Archival Notes
  3. Series III: Speeches
  4. Series IV: Jet History
  5. Series V: Patents
  6. Series VI: Sir Frank Whittle
  7. Series VII: Awards
  8. Series VIII: General Technical Articles
  9. Series IX: General Booklets, Journal Articles, Brochures, Newsletters, and News Clippings
  10. Series X: ARL Technical Books and Articles
  11. Series XI: General Technical Notes and Drawings
  12. Series XII: Teledyne
  13. Series XIII: University of Dayton Lecture Notes
  14. Series XIV: Photographs/Postcards

Acquisition Information

The Hans von Ohain Papers were donated to Special Collections and Archives by Dr. von Ohain's widow, Hanny von Ohain, on September 29, 2003.

Related Material

MS-241, Sir Frank Whittle Papers

Accession Number 1995-0059, Unprocessed Collection, Hans von Ohain Collection, National Air and Space Museum Archives, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Conner, Margaret, "Hans von Ohain: Elegance in Flight." (Reston, VA: American Institute of Aeronautics), 2001.
Guide to the Dr. Hans von Ohain Papers (MS-335)
Finding aid prepared by Tasha R. Hairston, August 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA