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Dr Robert Hutchings Goddard

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Dr Robert Hutchings Goddard

American Scientist. A graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (BS, 1908) and Clark University (Ph.D., 1911), Robert Goddard was a great pioneer of the embryonic field of rocket science. Goddard's work combined two basic concepts: the necessity of liquid-air fuel for sustained rocket propulsion, and the principle that a rocket will provide thrust in a vacuum, which he proved empirically in 1915. One of his first practical applications of rocketry (which did not, incidentally, rely on either of these principles) came in 1918, when he demonstrated a prototype rocket weapon (later known as the bazooka) at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds on November 10. The following year, he published his theories of rocket flight in the article "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes", which postulated that, using his principles, rockets could one day reach the moon. This paper, though scientifically sound, was ridiculed in a "New York Times" editorial, which stated that "Dr. Goddard seems to lack the knowledge of physics that is ladled out daily in high schools". Undeterred, though also largely unappreciated in his home country, Goddard continued his work; he would eventually hold 214 patents. After a long process of trial and error, he built the first working liquid-fuel rocket in 1926, then followed this with a public demonstration of a rocket carrying instruments in 1927. He patented the gyroscopic stabilizer in 1932, and finally published his successful research in 1936 after building rockets that achieved an altitude of 7,500 feet. At the outset of World War II, Goddard approached the US military about adapting his technology for weaponry, but was rebuffed. The German government took note of his work, however, and used Goddard's designs to build the V-2 rocket. This adaptation, which differed very little from Goddard's "Nell" rocket, would devastate London at the close of the war. Goddard, who had spent the war as Director of Research for the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics developing jet-assisted takeoff units, was chagrined. He would die only months later from throat cancer. In 1969, following the successful US mission to the moon using many of Goddard's theories, the New York Times printed a formal apology: "It is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error."

Bio by: Stuthehistoryguy


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 398
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Robert Hutchings Goddard (5 Oct 1882–10 Aug 1945), Find A Grave Memorial no. 398, citing Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .