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August 11, 1999

Michael Mewhinney

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

(Phone: 650/604-3937)



Robert Thomas (R.T.) Jones, inventor of the swept-back wing, basic to all of today's high-speed aircraft, died today at his Los Altos Hills home. He was 89.

An internationally-acclaimed expert in many fields of science and technology whose research was essential to the development of supersonic flight, Jones is perhaps best known as the inventor of the oblique wing design. This radical design concept pivoted an entire straight wing attached to the fuselage, forming a scissor-like appearance as flight speed increased.

"R.T. Jones was one of the world's most highly acclaimed aernonautical engineers," said William Berry, deputy director at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. "He was a critical member of the Ames aeronautical community and will be sorely missed by his colleagues and friends."

Prior to his retirement in 1981, Jones worked as a senior scientist at NASA Ames where he earned a world-wide reputation as an expert in aerodynamics, optics, biomechanics, as well as an applied mathematician, astronomer, inventor, author and violin maker.

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Throughout his career, Jones received numerous awards. In 1981, Jones received the Congressional Excalibur Award in recognition of his numerous contributions to aeronautical science. Earlier that same year, Jones was awarded the Smithsonian Institution's prestigious Langley Award, an honor bestowed on such aviation "giants" as the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindberg, Robert Byrd and James Webb, NASA's second administrator.

Last October, Jones was honored as one of NASA's Superstars of Modern Aeronautics during ceremonies held at NASA Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, OH. Jones, who was too ill to travel at the time, was represented at the ceremony by his daughter, Harriet Jones of Berkeley, CA and his son, David Jones of Corinth, MS.

Jones began his research career in 1934 when he joined NASA's predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, at its Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, now called the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

He developed his swept wing theory in 1944 and received the Sylvanus Albert Reed Award from the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences in 1946. That same year, Jones transferred from Langley to NASA Ames, where he worked until 1963 when he left to join AVCO Everett Research Laboratory. He returned to Ames in 1970 to continue his research on the oblique wing.

Jones was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973. In 1978, he received the Prandtl Ring Award from the German Aeronautics Society (Deutche Gesellschaft fur Luftund Raumfahrt), considered the highest honor in the field of fluid dynamics.

A Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Jones was selected as an Honorary Fellow of the organization in 1979. He received the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service in 1981 in recognition of his numerous contributions during his 40-year government career.

Jones was a member of many professional organizations, including the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the author of numerous publications and technical papers, 69 of which are contained in the "Collected Works of Robert T. Jones," NASA TMX-3334, published in 1976.

Funeral arrangements are pending.



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