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Jean Felix Piccard papers

Identifier: ua-00475

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection dates from the late 1930s to the 1940s. It consists mostly of correspondence, but includes nearly 2 boxes of student papers taken from the 1940s. Every third paper was retained to provide a sample of the entire contents. The collection also includes a dissertation of Jeannette Ridlon Piccard, as well as photographs and artifacts presumably used in flights. The "Pleiades" flight is well documented in the collection.


  • Creation: 1932-1952
  • Creation: (bulk 1935-1942)

Language of Materials

Collection materials in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Sketch of Jean Felix Piccard (1884-1963)

Jean Felix Piccard, Dipl. Ing. Chem. (1907), Dr. Sc. (1909), Swiss Institute of Technology (Zurich). Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (1936-1952). Pioneer in the field of stratospheric flight and cosmic ray research.

Jean Felix Piccard was born on January 28, 1884 in Basle, Switzerland. He was educated in Basle and at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich where he received the degree of Dr. Sc. in 1909. He moved to the United States in 1916 where he taught at the University of Chicago. In 1919, he married Jeannette Ridlon, who worked with her husband in many of his studies and experiments. She would, in 1935, receive her Ph. D. from the University of Minnesota. Together, they had three sons; John, Paul, and Donald. Jean Felix Piccard joined the University of Minnesota faculty in 1936 as a lecturer in the Department of Aeronautical Engineering where he remained until his retirement in 1952. He was considered a pioneering stratosphere balloonist and cosmic ray research scientist.

The Piccard family was internationally known for scientific achievement. His father, Jules Piccard, was Head of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basle. His twin brother, Auguste Piccard, later became the inventor of the stratosphere balloon, and made the first stratosphere flight in Europe in 1931. He is equally noted for his development of equipment for undersea exploration.

Jean Felix and Jeannette Piccard's famous stratosphere flight in 1934 was made in a balloon that left the Ford Airport in Dearborn, Michigan. It was the first flight made in the United States to study cosmic rays. In 1937, they boarded the "Pleiades" at Soldiers Field in Rochester, Minnesota to make another successful flight.

Piccard retired from the University of Minnesota in 1952 as professor emeritus, and died eleven years later on his birthday in 1963.


1 Cubic Feet (5 hollinger boxes)


The collection contains the personal papers of Dr. Jean Felix Piccard, professor emeritus of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.


To maintain Piccard's original folder headings, the collection is arranged alphabetically, then chronologically within the folders. All headings represent one folder unless otherwise noted.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the University of Minnesota Archives on September 10, 1975 by the Department of Aerospace Engineering.

Related Materials

DeGrummond, Lena Young. (1968). Jean Felix Piccard, boy balloonist.NY: Bobbs-Merrill.

Honour, Alan. (1957). Ten miles high, two miles deep; the adventures of the Piccards.NY: Whitlesey House.

Piccard Family Papers. Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress. Washington, DC.

Piccard Balloon Collection. University of Minnesota Libraries, Special Collections and Rare Books

Jean Felix Piccard papers, 1932-1952
University Archives staff; revised by Ann Mulfort
April 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area