Hansen, James R.
Hansen, James R.
PERSONAL: Born in Fort Wayne, IN; married Peggy Miller (a nurse); children: Nathaniel, Jennifer. Education: Indiana University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1974; Ohio State University, M.A., 1976, Ph.D., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Golf.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, Auburn University, 308-BThach Hall, Auburn, AL 36849. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: NASA Langley Research, Hampton VA, historian, 1981–85; University of Maine, Orono, professor, 1984–85; Auburn University, Auburn, AL, professor of history, 1986–, department chair, 1992–96. Virginia Air and Space Museum and Hampton Roads History Center, Hampton, VA, past vice president. Member of advisory boards and panels, including the research advisory board of the National Air and Space Museum, the editorial board of the Smithsonian Institution Press, the advisory board of the Archives of Aerospace Exploration at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the museum advisory board of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL, and board of directors of the Space Restoration Society. Member, World Scientific Congress of Golf.
AWARDS, HONORS: History Book Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Eugene Emme Prize, American Astronautical Society, c. 1989, both for From the Ground Up: The Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer; Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1995, for Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo; Creative Research Award, 1998, and teaching award, 2000, Auburn University; Robert H. Goddard Award, National Space Club; distinctions of excellence, Air Force Historical Foundation.
"NASA HISTORY" SERIES
Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917–1958, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Washington, DC), 1987.
Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Washington, DC), 1995.
(Editor, with others) The Wind and Beyond: A Documentary Journey into the History of Aerodynamics in America, six volumes, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Washington, DC), 2003.
(With Fred E. Weick) From the Ground Up: The Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1988.
The Bird Is on the Wing: Aerodynamics and the Progress of the American Airplane ("Centennial of Flight" series), Texas A&M University (College Station, TX), 2004.
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong (biography), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Air & Space, Smithsonian, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Technology and Culture, American Heritage of Invention and Technology, National Forum, Golf-week, and Superintendent News.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A history of American golf course development and the environmental impact of golf courses.
SIDELIGHTS: James R. Hansen is an historian whose specialty has been aerospace history and the history of technology. He first wrote a history of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, where he served as historian, and then cowrote the autobiography of aeronautical engineer Fred E. Weick. Hansen contributed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) history series and wrote a history of the American airplane.
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong is Hansen's authorized biography of the first man to walk on the surface of the moon. Hansen drew on 125 interviews, including those with his subject, to write the book. He follows the astronaut's life from childhood to his first experiences as a pilot, Korean War service, and the details of the Apollo 11 mission. He describes the training of astronauts at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the headquarters in Houston, Texas, noting how astronauts were picked and how Armstrong was chosen by NASA to be "first."
Hansen sensitively takes note of unfortunate events in the personal life of Armstrong, who avoided the limelight. Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor wrote that "Hansen capably captures both Armstrong's expertise and his Garbo-like demurral of fame." Hansen provides a considerable amount of interesting trivia about Armstrong's life, according to critics. A Publishers Weekly contributor, for example, wrote that "rather than overwhelming, this accumulation of details gives flesh-and-blood reality to a man who is more icon than human."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, p. 34.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005, review of First Man, p. 896.
Library Journal, October 1, 2005, John Carver Edwards, review of First Man, p. 88.
Publishers Weekly, August 8, 2005, review of First Man, p. 228.
Science News, October 29, 2005, review of First Man, p. 287.
Auburn University Department of History Web site, http://www.cla.auburn.edu/history/ (March 1, 2006), brief biography of James R. Hansen.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (March 1, 2006), Robert Finn, review of First Man.
Houston Chronicle Online, http://www.chron.com/ (November 8, 2005), Mark Carreau, review of First Man.