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Thompson, Milton John (1904–1971)

Biography Entry

Milton John Thompson, aerodynamics professor and engineer, the son of Schuyler D. and Jennie L. (Albertson) Thompson, was born on July 28, 1904, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he attended local schools and junior college. He received a B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering in 1925 and an M.S. degree in 1926 from the University of Michigan. After two years at that university as an instructor of engineering mathematics, he won a Guggenheim fellowship in 1928 to study at the Warsaw Polytechnical Institute in Poland. He received his Sc.D. degree in aerodynamics in 1930 in Poland and returned to the University of Michigan as assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautical Engineering; in 1937 he became associate professor. In Michigan he was active in wind-tunnel projects and became well known as a consultant in aeronautical engineering. In 1941 Thompson accepted a professorship in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas. Through his efforts, and because of the importance of aviation in the war, the UT Department of Aeronautical Engineering was established in 1942, with Thompson as chairman. Thompson often toured the United States, Europe, and the Middle East as a lecturer. He predicted that 90 percent of ocean travel after World War II would be by air and that jets would travel twice the speed of sound. For most of 1945 he was on leave from the university to serve as supervisor of aerodynamics at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University. After returning to Austin, he and Charles P. Boner established the Defense Research Laboratory at the University of Texas, and Thompson served as associate director of that laboratory until shortly before his death. In 1958 the university's Department of Aeronautical Engineering became the Department of Aerospace Engineering, a change that reflected the new emphasis on aerospace courses and the research in travel outside the earth's atmosphere. Thompson remained as chairman of the new department. He coauthored several books and wrote many articles and scientific papers. His special field was flight performance of aerospace vehicles. Thompson married Helen B. Frank on August 22, 1931; they had two children. Thompson died in Austin on July 23, 1971, and was buried in Austin Memorial Park.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1960–61.


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Sciences, Agriculture, and Engineering

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Thompson, Milton John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 20, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.