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Norman H. Brooks Papers

Identifier: 10289-MS

Scope and Contents

The Norman H. Brooks papers are divided into four series: 1. California Institute of Technology; 2. Reports, Research and Consultancy Work; 3. Photographic Material; 4. Audiovisual.

The collection represents Brooks' contributions to the field of hydrology and hydraulics. The collection also includes slides and audiovisual material from various California Institute of Technology collaborations and are arranged in chronological order when available.

Metadata and detailed information related to slides and audiovisual material is stored in the Brooks' collection electronic file and available upon request. Contact the California Institute of Technology Archives to submit a request.


  • 1930-2002


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access. Some files are confidential and are currently closed. Researchers may request information about closed files from the Caltech Archives.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

Biographical / Historical

Norman Herrick Brooks was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on July 2, 1928. Brooks attended Harvard University and graduated with an AB magna cum laude in 1949 in Mathematics and MS in 1950 in Civil Engineering. Brooks attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a PhD summa cum laude in 1954 in the fields of Physics and Civil Engineering. He was the first named James Irvine Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at Caltech and specialized in hydraulics and hydrology. He was one of the organizers of the graduate degree program in Environmental Engineering Science established in 1969. The program applied both science and engineering to environmental problems. Brooks served two terms as Executive Officer for Environmental Engineering Science from 1969 to 1974 and 1985 to 1993 and was Director of the Environmental Quality Laboratory from 1974 to 1993. Professor Brooks became Emeritus in September 1995.

Brooks’ main research contributions were in the area of hydrologic transport processes, including the flow and dispersal of pollutants in natural bodies of water including rivers, lakes, groundwater, and the coastal ocean. He worked on the mechanics of alluvial streams, including floods and sediment flows. He supervised over twenty PhD students, four of whom won the prestigious University of Minnesota Straub Award for the best hydrodynamics thesis of the year (in English).

Brooks developed engineering procedures during his career for the hydraulic design of ocean outfalls for disposal of wastewater in ways which protected water quality. His contributions to outfall engineering became accepted engineering practice throughout the world. He was also active in policy studies, mostly related to ocean disposal.

He served as a special hydraulics design consultant for more than thirty wastewater outfalls and dealt with both the external hydraulics that determined water-quality performance (buoyant jets, transport and dispersion of wastewater clouds by ocean currents, sedimentation, resuspension, etc.) and internal hydraulics (manifolds, seawater intrusion, deposition inside outfalls, friction losses, pumping, energy dissipators, etc). He was a specialist in hydraulic modeling related to outfalls, through performance, defining the need, scope of work recommendation, and oversight of modeling completed by others.

Brooks served as the major special hydraulics consultant of design and construction of the 9.5 mile tunneled outfall of Boston Harbor. He was the only hydraulic engineer who worked on this major project from the start in 1986 to completion in 2001. His work on the project encompassed preliminary design, with Camp, Dresser and McKee; final design, with Metcalf and Eddy, lead design engineer; and construction and commissioning, with Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade and Douglas, engineer for construction supervision.

He was active in National Research Council Boards and Committees. Brooks served on the NRC Committee on Wastewater Management for Coastal Urban Areas as Chair of the Panel on Environmental Processes and was a principal author of the resulting book, Managing Wastewater in Coastal Urban Areas (National Academy Press 1993).

In 1994, Brooks served as the principal expert witness in Federal Court hearings on the performance of Point Loma Outfall as extended in 1993 for the City of San Diego, EPA and State of California vs. City of San Diego. Brooks served as a technical adviser to the City of San Diego until the city qualified for a final wastewater permit after it demonstrated that second treatment of the wastewater was unnecessary.

Norman H. Brooks was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, 1973, and the National Academy of Sciences, 1981, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1984, and Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1996.

The American Society of Civil Engineers honored Brooks with seven other awards, three jointly, since 1957.


15.56 linear feet

Language of Materials



Norman H. Brooks, Caltech James Irvine Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering, Emeritus; Member of National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, taught at Caltech for over forty years. Brooks retired from teaching in 1995. The Norman H. Brooks papers illustrate Brooks' contributions to the field of fluid turbulence and diffusion and environmental fluid mechanics, particularly ocean pollution control and consist of reports, research, historical documents from colleagues and Caltech, slides, audiovisual material and photographs.


The Norman H. Brooks Papers are divided into four series containing subseries: 1. California Institute of Technology; 2. Reports, Research and Consultancy Work; 3. Photographic Material; 4. Audiovisual Material.

Series 1: California Institute of Technology is divided into three subseries. Subseries 1: Caltech Campus consists of documents and photographs related to building, JPL and campus history, photo logs and albums, photographs of students and staff. Subseries 2: Collaboration with Soil Conservation Service subseries consists of Reports, SCS Employment Records (currently closed), Photo Lab Index including descriptions of slides, lab reports and project working plans. Subseries 3: Caltech Azusa Lab subseries consists of technical information, correspondence, sketches, progress reports, model studies and prints related to Caltech's Azusa Lab and is grouped in chronological order when available.

Series 2: Reports, Research and Consultancy Work is divided into four subseries. Subseries 1: Reports related to Ocean Outfall and Submarine Topography. Subseries 2: Project Supervision subseries includes Original Draft Copies of reports supervised by Brooks. Subseries 3: Consultancy Work contains model studies and a draft report. Subseries 4: Sponsored Research.

Series 3: Photographic Material is divided into two subseries according to media type. Subseries 1: Slides. This subseries consists of a large collection of standard and glass slides from the Soil Conservation Service and Caltech collaboration, Hydrodynamics and Water Research Lab, Azusa Laboratory and Keck Laboratories of Hydraulics and Water Resources documentation of San Francisco Ocean Outfalls. Slides are arranged by subject and chronological order when available. A selection of slides is digitized. File names for digitized slides are available upon request. Subseries 2: Photographs. This subseries consists of photographs and negatives of Caltech Hydraulics Testing, design for high velocity curves and miscellaneous photographs. The subseries is arranged in chronological order when available.

Series 4: Audiovisual is divided into two subseries. Subseries 1: Audiovisual. This subseries consists of film reels of meetings, lectures, footage of model building in the Azusa lab. File names for digitized media can be found in the container list. Subseries 2: Motion Picture Documentation. This subseries includes procedures for distibution of movies, loan records, correspondence, motion picture lists and notes.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Norman Brooks papers, slides and audiovisual materials were transferred to the archives from Brooks' office in the Keck Laboratory, and donated to the Caltech Archives by Norman Brooks in 2018.


Metadata and detailed information related to slides and audiovisual material is stored in the Brooks' collection electronic file and available upon request. Contact the California Institute of Technology Archives to submit a request.

Norman H. Brooks Digitized Slide Collection Metadata is located in two locations: and Z:\Workspace\Brooks\NHB_Digitized Slides_Series 3.

Norman H. Brooks Digitized Film Reel Collection Metadata is located in two locations: and Z:\Workspace\Brooks\NHB_Digitized Film Reels_Series 4.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Clarisse Alvarez and Mariella Soprano beginning in 2018 and completed in 2021. Materials were removed from binders, file folders and manila envelopes and were replaced with acid-free folders. The original order of materials was kept when available. Some correspondence were placed in chronological or alphabetical order, depending on the record creator's order. Photographs, slides and film reels were sleeved in appropriate preservation enclosures. Various metal fasteners were removed and replaced with archival plastic clips. Duplicate copies were removed and recycled.

Finding Aid for the Norman H. Brooks Papers, 1930-2002
Clarisse Alvarez and Mariella Soprano
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
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