Robert Hutchins Goddard

Robert Hutchins Goddard

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Many of the the most important features of modern rockets, missiles, and even spacecraft use the principles pioneered by Dr. Robert Goddard. Before his work, many people didn't even believe thrust could propel a rocket in a vacuum and, because of this, he was ridiculed by the New York Times when he proposed that space travel with rockets was possible4. When he tried to tell the U.S. Army about the possibility of the Germans using rockets as weapons just before World War II, he was rebuffed. What he had warned became a reality however, when German V-2 rockets hit London. After the war was over, German scientists admitted that much of the design for the V-2 had been taken from Goddard's patents, which were publicly available4.

Even though many people didn't take his work seriously, this didn't deter Goddard from the work he loved. He always kept working to advance rocketry, which he believed someday would be the means to travel into space. From his early experiments of measuring the thrust of solid fuel rocket engines on a bench with a ballistic pendulum3, to his last experiments with liquid fuel powered rockets that were over 20 feet long and traveled to altitudes of 9000 feet1, he forged the means to the space age. Before him, rocketry was relatively dead, while after him it was at the forefront of scientific research.

Unlike when he first started his work, Dr. Goddard is now recognized for the important role he had in the fields of rocketry and liquid fuel propulsion. He is now known as the father of modern rocketry5. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is named after him. He recently was named one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century by Time magazine4. In 1969, the New York Times even printed a piece acknowledging that Goddard had indeed been correct about thrust working in a vacuum.

Robert Goddard's achievements 1,2

* First to explore mathematically the practicality of using rocket propulsion to reach high altitudes and even the moon (1912)
* Received first U.S. patent in the idea of a multi-stage rocket (1914)
* Proved, by actual test, that a rocket will work in a vacuum (1915)

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Related Searches

* Developed the basis for the rocket weapon, later known as the bazooka, for the U.S. Army (1917)
* First to develop a rocket motor using liquid propellants (1920-1925)
* First to shoot a liquid fuel rocket (March 16,1926)
* Shot the first scientific payload (barometer and camera) in a rocket flight (1929)
* First to use vanes in the rocket motor blast for guidance (1932)
* First to develop gyro stabilization apparatus for rockets (1932)
* Launched the first liquid-propellant rocket which went faster than the speed of sound (March 8, 1935)
* First developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels
* First launched successfully a rocket with a motor pivoted on gimbals under the influence of a gyro mechanism (1937)
* Awarded 214 patents between 1914 and 1956

Timeline of Robert Goddard's Life 1,5

1882, October 5th Born at Maple Hill, Worcester, MA

1889 At age 7, began thinking about flight into outer space

1904-1908 Student, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (B.S. 1908)

1908-1909 Instructor of Physics, W.P.I., & special student in Physics, Clark University

1909-1911 Fellow in Physics, Clark University (A.M. 1910, Ph.D. 1911)

1914-1915, Honorary Fellow in Physics, Clark University

1912 First explored mathematically the practicality of
using rocket power to reach high altitudes &
escape velocity

1912-1913 Research Instructor in Physics, Princeton University

1913-1914 Illness--tuberculosis

1914, July Awarded first two patents for his liquid-fuel gun
rocket and a multistage step rocket rocket

1914-1915 Instructor, Clark College

1915 Proved experimentally that a rocket will provide thrust in a vacuum

1915-1919 Assistant Professor, Clark College

1917-1918 Developed the basis for the rocket weapon, later
known as the bazooka, for the U.S. Army

1919 First to publish in the U.S. a basic mathematical
theory underlying rocket propulsion & rocket
flight, together with results of experiments
with solid-propellant rockets. It was titled "A Method of
Reaching Extreme Altitudes"

1919-1920 Associate Professor, Clark College

1920-1923 Part-time consultant on solid-propellant rocket
weapons for U.S. Government at Indian Head,

1920-1925 Developed the first rocket motor using liquid propellants (liquid oxygen & gasoline)

1920-1943 Professor, Clark University

1923-1943 Director of the Physical Laboratories, Clark University

1924, June 21 Married Esther Christine Kisk

1925 Static test at Clark University: liquid-propellant rocket
lifted its own weight for the first time

1926, March 16 First launch of a liquid-propellant rocket, at Auburn, MA

1929, July 17 Tested first rocket containing instruments

1929, November 23 First met with Charles A. Lindbergh, who was later influential in helping
Goddard receive funding for his work

1930-1932 Began conducting full time rocket research at Roswell, NM on leave
of absence from Clark University

1932 Developed first gyro stabilization apparatus for rockets

1932 First used deflector vanes in the blast of the rocket motor as
a method of stabilizing & guiding rockets

1932-1934 Continued teaching at Clark University while also carrying on his research

1935 Conducted a series of 14 tests with rockets that were about 15 feet long

1935, March 8 Launched the first liquid-propellant rocket which attained a speed greater
than that of sound (700 mph)

1935 Rocket reached altitude of 7500 feet

1936, March 16 Published "Liquid Propellant Rocket Development"

1936-1938 Conducted a series of 30 tests with rockets that were about 18 feet long

1937, March 26 Rocket reached height of 9000 feet; his highest flight

1938-1941 Conducted a series of 36 tests with rockets that were about 22 feet long;
these were his last flight tests

1942-1945 Worked as Director of Research for the Navy Department, Bureau
of Aeronautics developing jet-assisted takeoff and variable-thrust
liquid-propellant rockets

1943-1945 Worked as a Consulting Engineer for Curtiss-Wright Corporation

1944-1945 Was the director of the American Rocket Society

1945, June 2 Received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Clark University

1945, August 10 Died at Baltimore, MD. Buried in Hope Cemetery, Worcester, MA

Background Achievements Timeline Pictures Bibliography


1. Clark University (2001). Biography of Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry.

2. Goddard Space Flight Center (2002). Robert H. Goddard: American Rocket Pioneer.

3. Stern, D. (2002). Robert Goddard and His Rockets.

4. Kluger, J. (2003) Rocket Scientist Robert Goddard.

5. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1999). Chronological History of the Career of Robert H. Goddard.

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