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Clifford C. Furnas papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 4-9-805

Scope and Contents

Collection contains personal papers, memorabilia, publications, clippings, scrapbooks, photographs from the professional and family life of Clifford C. Furnas mostly collected and arranged by his wife, Sparkle Moore Furnas.


  • 1900-1986
  • Majority of material found within ( 1917-1969)


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Clifford C. Furnas Papers, 1900-1986 (bulk 1917-1969) are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Clifford C. Furnas (1900-1969), chemical engineer, metallurgist, aviator researcher, and Olympic athlete, was the University's ninth chief executive, holding the position of Chancellor from 1954 until 1962 when the University merged with the State University of New York and his title changed to President. Furnas undertook an extensive program of expansion and enrichment to meet the growing educational needs of Western New York. He was the guiding force in the merger of the private UB with the State University of New York in 1962. He served as President through 1966.

Dr. Furnas was a nationally recognized scientist, educator, administrator, and author. He studied chemical engineering at Purdue University from 1918 to 1922 and taught Engineering at Yale in the 1930s. He directed the Airplane Division of Curtiss-Wright in Buffalo, New York from 1942 to 1945 and the Cornell Aeronautical laboratory from 1946 to 1954. From 1955 to 1957, Dr. Furnas served as Assistant Secretary of Defense a the Pentagon, under the Eisenhower administration.

His personal and professional achievements included his participation in the 1920 Olympic Games, authoring an award-winning book, and working on the project to develop the United States first space satellite, Explorer I.

Dr. Furnas once said, "All of my life I have been involved alternately in research and university education. They go together and they are both necessary for human progress..."

Taken from the exhibit for the Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room once housed in the University Libraries' Special Collections Room 427. Information obtained from the following books by Sparkle Furnas: Lifetime Accomplishments of Clifford Cook Furnas, 1985 Memorial Biographical Record of Clifford Cook Furnas, 1975 Principal Addresses of C.C. Furnas, 1970.

Early Childhood and Family

Dr. Furnas was born in 1900 in Sheridan, Indiana, as the son of Clara S. and T. Chalmers Furnas. His family came from England in 1763. His father was a horticulturalist and nurseryman, who wrote poetry as a hobby. Clifford married Sparkle Moore, also a Purdue graduate in April 1925. They had one child, Beatrice Louise. Mrs. Furnas was a very active woman and was given many awards for her roles in the University and the community.

Purdue Athlete and 1920 Olympic Games

In 1918, Furnas entered Purdue University in Indiana, majoring in engineering. Throughout his college years, Furnas has been successful in Track and Field and won many medals in intercollegiate conferences held at mid-western universities. Furnas represented the United States in the 1920 Olympic Games that were held din Antwerp, Belgium and was among the finalists to run the 5000 meter. After the 1920 Olympic Games, he participated in the French Championship of Tack and Field at Lille, France, and wont 1st price in the one mile run. He also won 1st place in the two-mile run in the meet between the American team and the British team held in London. Besides being a good athlete, Clifford was an excellent student and was elected president of his class.


Dr. Furnas was a very energetic and enthusiastic man who had a wide range of interests in life, from sports, outdoor life, and the natural world to music and literature. Dr. Furnas and his family especially loved to climb mountains and spend time outdoors.

Research and Teaching (1922-1942)

In 1922, Clifford graduated from Purdue with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and was awarded the Big Ten Conference medal fo the best scholarship and athletic combined prowess. After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1926, Dr. Furnas became a research engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Minneapolis, conducting research on metallurgical processes and the operation of blast furnaces. In 1931, he joined the faculty of Yale University as an associate professor of chemical engineering. While teaching there, he began giving scientific lectures and writing scientific articles and books, include America's Tomorrow (1932), Man, Bread and Destiny (1937), and The Storehouse of Civilization (1939). His book The Next Hundred Years (1936), became a Book-of-the-Month-Club selection. In 1941, with the outbreak of World Ward II, Dr. Furnas was appointed Chief Technical Aide to the National Defense Research Committee in Washing D.C., on a part-time basis.

Leadership in Aeronautical Field (1942-1953)

In 1942, Dr. Furnas was named Director of the Curtiss-Wright Research Laboratory in Buffalo, New York. During World War II, the company greatly contributed to the war effort by producing advanced engines for fighter airplanes. In 1946, Dr. Furnas became the first director of the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, formerly the Airplane Division of Curtis-Wright, and guided it through the first decade of its establishment. As a leading aeronautical research center in the U.S., the laboratory conducted imaginative research and development in such areas as wind tunnels, aircraft structures, and supersonic guided missiles.

Leadership in Education (1954-1962)

In 1954, Dr. Furnas was appointed Chancellor of the University of Buffalo. Shortly after becoming Chancellor, he was named by President Eisenhower to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development in the Pentagon. He held this position from December 1955 to February 1957.

The 1950s and 1960s was a time of rapid growth for the University of Buffalo. In terms of the physical expansion of the size of the university, twenty-two new buildings were added during Chancellor Furnas' tenure. In 1958 the U.B. Bulls, football team, left a record of 8 wins and 1 loss, becoming the winner of the Lambert Cup. After much consideration, the University of Buffalo decided to become a part of the State University of New York system in 1962.

Vision for the Future (1962-1969)

After his retirement as the University's first President in 1966, Dr. Furnas continued to serve the University both as President-Emeritus and as President of the Board of the Western New York Nuclear Research Center.

While he was in the Pentagon, Dr. Furnas was associated with Project Vanguard, which developed the United States first space satellite, Explorer I. For his role in that development he was awarded a special "Pioneer of the Space Age" medal. Seeking new knowledge though his life, Dr. Furnas' vision for the future was part of the driving force of twentieth-century technological development.


109 Linear Feet (70 cartons, 4 manuscript boxes, 15 flat boxes, 1 oversize flat box, 1 envelope)


Collection contains personal papers, memorabilia, publications, clippings, scrapbooks, and photographs from the professional and family life of Clifford C. Furnas mostly collected and arranged by his wife, Sparkle Moore Furnas.


This collection is arranged in nine series and further subdivided into subseries:

  1. Biographical
  2. Early Career
  3. United States Government
  4. University of Buffalo/State University of New York at Buffalo
  5. Professional Career
  6. Personal Correspondence
  7. Publications
  8. Memorabilia
  9. Photographs

Acquisition Information

Collection received from Clifford and Sparkle Furnas between the 1960s and 1980s.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Resources in the University Archives

  1. 4/9/843, Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Room, 1900-2010
  2. 4/9/1091, Sparkle M. Furnas Papers, 1901-1996
  3. MS 190, T. Chalmers Furnas Papers, 1894-1974 (bulk 1894-1946)
  4. MS 215, Clifton J. Furness Papers, 1903-1974 (bulk 1903-1955)

Processing Information

Originally processed by Archives staff circa 1999. Reprocessed and another collection of printed material, 4/9/23, merged by Karen Spencer, March 2011.


Finding Aid for Clifford C. Furnas papers
Finding aid prepared by Karen Spencer.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)