His contemporaries saw R.T. Jones as one of the notably creative aerodynamicists of the twentieth century. This essay reviews his remarkable life and career, including his years as a farm-country boy, college dropout, and fledgling airplane designer in Missouri, his time as an elevator operator and self-directed student in Washington, D.C., and his long professional career as an aerodynamicist at the Langley and Ames Aeronautical Laboratories and Stanford University. The focus in his career is on his fundamental discovery of the benefits of sweepback for the wings of high-speed airplanes. This includes speculation about his highly intuitive thought processes in arriving at his creative ideas. I also give an account of his work on blood flow and the mechanical heart, his avocational accomplishments as a maker of telescopes and violins, and his philosophical interest in human affairs.


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