Skip to main content

MS006: Howard Emmons Collection

Identifier: MS06

Scope and Contents

There are materials in this collection from 1931 to 1998. The bulk of the collection is from the 1960s through 1980s. The largest part of the collection is Howard Emmons' own work, including his notes, notebooks and handbooks; many papers and reports he wrote; the Harvard Home Fire Project which he directed and wrote many papers for; presentations and consultations he did; and committees he chaired and served on.

A large part of the collection is also made up of papers and reports on fire safety science written by other people. Emmons had organized many of these papers, including some of his own, by subject categories. These categories are maintained in the collection; there may be other papers which fit these categories which will be found elsewhere. The categories are: Fire Modeling, Test Methods, Radiation, Mass Fire, Pyrolysis, Sprinklers, and Extinguishants and Retardants.

Also part of the collection are photographs and slides; films related to the Home Fire Project; computer manuals, print-outs, and disks; and files of legal cases Howard Emmons worked on as a consultant.


  • 1931 - 1998

Conditions Governing Access

Permission of Archivist

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Biographical / Historical

Howard W. Emmons was born in Morristown, N.J. Aug. 30, 1912. He received Master of Engineering and Master of Science Degrees from Stevens Institute of Technology, in 1933 and 1935 respectively. He received his Doctor of Science degree from Harvard University in 1938. After two years at Westinghouse Electric and one at the University of Pennsylvania as Associate Professor, Emmons came to Harvard University in 1940. He became Gordon McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering there in 1949, and in 1966 became Abbott and James Lawrence Professor of Engineering. He retired from Harvard in 1983.

Professor Emmons was married and had three children. He lived in Sudbury, MA for many years, and was chairman of the Lincoln-Sudbury School Committee (1954-1968) and a town selectman (1969-1972).

Emmons' focus throughout his career was on fire safety science, and he was on the leading edge in this field. He re-created furnished rooms in his laboratory and observed them burning. He developed mathematical models for predicting fire spread, and later the Harvard Computer Fire Code.

He chaired the National Academy of Science's Committee on Fire Research, and helped bring about the passage of the National Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968. He chaired and participated in many other boards and committees related to fire safety.

With grants from the National Science Foundation, and working with Factory Mutual Research and Engineering Corp., Emmons directed Harvard's Home Fire Project.

After Howard Emmons' retirement from Harvard, he continued to work in the Fire Safety Science field, serving on committees and as a consultant, and continuing his work on the Home Fire Project.

Howard Emmons received many awards and honors, including being named "man of the year" by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. In 1983, the Center for Fire Research honored him at its annual conference, calling him "Mr. Fire Research."

He supported the Fire Safety Science program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and WPI has an annual Howard W. Emmons Distinguished Lecture, and also gives the Howard Wilson Emmons Distinguished Scholar Award.


66 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Howard Emmons, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University for forty years, was a leader in fire research and fire safety science in the second half of the 20th Century. This collection includes his papers and reports, including reports of the Home Fire Project, and papers and reports by others in the fire safety science field.

Howard W. Emmons Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the WPI Manuscript Collections Repository

100 Institute Rd
George C. Gordon Library
Worcester MA 01609 USA