MC 00069 Guide to the Ralph Clay Swann Papers, 1931 - 1968

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Swann, Ralph Clay, 1912-1967


0.5 Linear feet 1 archival box

General Physical Description note

1 archival box


For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff external link.



Acquisitions Information

Gift of Mrs. Ralph C. Swann, 1973 (Accession no. 1973-0007).


Processed by: Michael Watts;machine-readable finding aid created by: Michael Watts

Scope and Content Note

This collection chiefly documents Ralph Clay Swann's work as Technical Director at the Redstone Arsenal Ordnance Missile Laboratories in Huntsville, Alabama, where he was responsible for the planning and execution of rocket propulsion research and solid propulsion development. Contained in the files are news clippings, photographs, certificates, citations, lectures and speeches given by Swann. Included are photographs of Dr. Swann at the detonation of the FIZEAU nuclear device at the Mercury, Nevada, test site in September 1957. A few items relate to Swann's education, to his work in private industry, or to his work at North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (later North Carolina State University).

Biographical Note

Born in West Virginia in 1912, Ralph Swann received a B.S. in chemistry from Morris Harvey College and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Swann was a research chemist and director of research in private industry from 1933 to 1951. He served as Deputy Chief, Assistant Director and Technical Director of the Ordnance Missile Laboratories, Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama, 1953-1961. As Technical Director, he was responsible for the planning and execution of rocket propulsion research and solid propulsion development.

Swann was nationally known for his role in the development of Cold War missile systems. He oversaw the origins of key components used in anti-ballistic weapons during the time he worked at Redstone Arsenal, making major contributions to the propulsion systems employed by Nike Zeus, Nike Hercules, Pershing, and Lacrosse service missiles. Swann maintained professional contact with scientific personnel in universities, government agencies and private industry throughout the nation.

In January 1961, Ralph Clay Swann came to North Carolina State University as Head of the Chemistry Department. He was involved in the publication of hundreds of technical papers and was a formative presence in developing a national profile for North Carolina State University. Swann was an active community member participating in local Rotary Club functions. He also maintained involvement with the Minerva Masonic Lodge in his hometown of Barboursville. W.Va. He worked as head of the NCSU chemistry department until his death, in 1967 at the age of fifty-four . Dr. Swann was survived by his wife Winifred, two daughters, and a son.

Access to Collection

This collection is open for research. Access requires at least 24 hours advance notice.

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Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111


(919) 515-2273


(919) 513-1787

Preferred Citation

Ralph Clay Swann Papers, MC 69, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Access to Collection

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