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Frederick C. Nelson Papers

Call Number: MS198

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of biographical information, publications, and course materials and notes by and about Frederick C. Nelson. The course materials primarily consist of lecture notes and presentations that Nelson prepared for courses that he taught, such as "Applied Acoustics for Mechanical Engineers."


  • Creation: 1955 -- 2007


Language of Materials



This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.

Biographical / Historical

Frederick C. Nelson was born on August 8, 1932 in Braintree, Massachusetts. He received a B.S. from Tufts College in 1954 and he attended Harvard University for his M.S. (1955) and Ph.D. (1961). He was an Instructor in Engineering at Tufts University from 1955 to 1957, an Assistant Professor from 1957-1964, and an Associate Professor from 1964-1971. He was made a full Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 1971 and served at the Dean of the College of Engineering from 1980 to 1994. He retired from teaching in 2007 and was awarded emeritus status. Nelson died in 2009 from a melanoma.

During his tenure as dean, Nelson modernized the engineering school and its curriculum, renovating Bray Lab for the mechanical engineers, replacing the environmental labs for the civil engineers, revamping Halligan Hall for the electrical engineers and moving the chemical engineering department into the new Science and Technology Center. He also was involved in establishing technology centers in electro-optics and biotechnology, which gave the school a national reputation in research. After he left the dean’s post, alumni funded the construction of the Nelson Auditorium in Anderson Hall in his honor.

Nelson’s research interests encompassed acoustics, vibration, shock mechanics, and rotordynamics, a specialized branch of applied mechanics that analyzes the behavior of rotating structures such as jet engines, automobile engines, and computer disk storage. He wrote or co-authored more than 50 articles in professional publications and was a consultant to more than a dozen companies.

He spent a semester in England at the Institute for Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton, two terms in France as a visiting professor at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon (INSA), and one term as a research scholar at Harvard University. He established and administered the student exchange program between Tufts and INSA, which continues to this day and has resulted in more than 50 Tufts students studying engineering in France for a year.

Nelson was a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a recipient of the Centennial Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the King Seijong Medal of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Anniversary Medal of INSA de Lyon, the Distinguished Service Medal of Tufts University, and the Career Achievement Award of the mechanical engineering department at Tufts.


1.7 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


This collection is organized into three series: Biographical papers; Course materials; and Publications.

Custodial History

Materials donated by Nelson's wife, Delia A. Nelson, in 2012.

Processing status

This collection is processed.

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States