This collection consists of six feet of material documenting Porter's many scientific contributions. The following types of material are included: photographs, lecture notes, correspondence, trip notes, newspaper clippings, symposium programs, papers, and periodicals, circa 1930s-1980s.
Scope and Content:
The Richard Porter Collection reflects Porter's career as an electrical engineer, rocketry expert, and a corporate manager and consultant. Almost the entirety of this collection consists of materials related to his professional work. This includes correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, notes, speeches, photographs, brochures, pamphlets, programs, magazines, newsletters, papers, articles, newspaper clippings, miscellaneous materials (directories, mailing lists, transcript, etc.), as well as a scrapbook. It is worth singling out a few of the aforementioned materials for their particular historical significance pertaining to the development of rocketry and space exploration. Some of the correspondence, memoranda and notes reveal the inner workings of Operation Paperclip: the U.S. plan to seek out, debrief, recruit and evacuate German rocket scientists from war-torn Germany to America. Additionally, other examples of correspondence and notes give candid appraisals of some key figures in the aerospace field, as well as to illustrate exchanges between Porter and such scientific luminaries as Carl Sagan, Wernher von Braun, Simon Ramo, Holger Toftoy, Fred Durant III, Edith Goddard and Clyde Tombaugh.
The Porter Collection is arranged both chronologically and alphabetically. Correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, notes, notebooks, speeches, photographs, brochures, pamphlets, programs, magazines, journals, articles, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials are organized by the former method. Reports are arranged alphabetically by organizational name while newsletters and papers are grouped alphabetically by title and then chronologically.
The reader should note that the Porter Collection was exposed to a fire in Porter's office sometime during the late 1970s. The fire, along with the subsequent dousing of water from the firefighters, destroyed much of this collection. All that remained are the materials described here. While the surviving materials generally suffered only minor damage (mainly to their original folders), scorch marks can be occasionally observed on some correspondence, speeches, reports, etc.. More serious problems exist with seven folders containing photographs. For conservation purposes, they have been separated from the rest of the photographs in this collection and are currently unavailable to researchers.
The Porter Collection is arranged both chronologically and alphabetically. Correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, notes, notebooks, speeches, photographs, brochures, pamphlets, programs, magazines, journals, articles, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials are organized by the former method. Reports are arranged alphabetically by organizational name while newsletters and papers are grouped alphabetically by title.
As an established authority on rockets, GE placed Porter in overall charge of the company's guided missiles department in 1953. By the mid-1950s, his great knowledge in this field also lead to a position as head of a panel of scientists tasked with developing a U.S. space program in time for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957-58. On February 1, 1958, Porter was given the honor of announcing to reporters that the U.S. had launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, the previous night. The booster employed for this endeavor, an Army Jupiter-C, was designed and built mainly by the German rocket scientists (including their leader, Wernher von Braun) Porter helped to bring to America thirteen years earlier. By this time, GE assigned him as a company-wide consultant. Besides serving as leader of the U.S. IGY effort, he also served on many other boards and panels such as the International Relations Committee of the Space Sciences Board, U.S. National Academy of Science, the U.S. Academy in the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and the U.S. delegation for the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. During his long career in engineering and aerospace development, Porter was also the recipient of numerous honors and awards. These included the Coffin Award, Goddard Award and the Scientific Achievement Award given by Yale University.
Aside from his career, Porter had a busy personal life. In 1946, he married Edith Wharton Kelly. The couple had two daughters and a son. Porter enjoyed horticulture -- especially growing orchids, as well as skiing and playing the clarinet. He died on October 6, 1996 at the age of 83.
Dr. Porter had a fire that destroyed most of his papers. These six boxes are all that remain.
Susan Porter Beffel and Thomas Andrew Porter, Gift, 1997, 1997-0037, NASM