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Oberth, Hermann

Oberth, Hermann

Austro-Hungarian Physicist 1894-1989

Hermann Julius Oberth, who was born on June 25, 1894, in the Transylvanian town of Hermannstadt, is considered a founding father of rocketry and astronautics. In the 1920s Oberth, whose childhood fantasies had been inspired by the novels of Jules Verne, wrote an influential publication The Rocket into Planetary Space, which discussed many aspects of rocket travel. Later he expanded that work into a larger volume, The Road to Space Travel, which won wide recognition.

After World War I, Oberth studied physics at the University of Munich, where he realized that the key to space travel was the development of multistage rockets. Despite this important insight, Oberth's doctoral thesis on rocketry was rejected in 1922. However, in 1923, he published The Rocket into Planetary Space, which was followed by a longer version in 1929. In the final chapter Oberth foresaw "rockets so [powerful] that they could be capable of carrying a man aloft."

In the 1930s, Oberth proposed to the German War Department the development of liquid-fueled, long-range rockets. Oberth worked with the rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun during World War II to develop the V-2 rocket for the German army. During this period Robert Goddard waslaunching liquid-fueled rockets in the United States. After the war Oberth and von Braun collaborated again at the U.S. Army's Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Alabama. Oberth contributed many important ideas regarding spaceflight, including the advantages of an orbiting telescope. Oberth died in 1989 at the age of 95.

see also Goddard, Robert Hutchings (volume 1); Verne, Jules (volume 1); von Braun, Wernher (volume 3).

John F. Kross

Bibliography

Friedman, Herbert. The Amazing Universe. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1975.

Heppenheimer, T. A. Countdown: A History of Space Flight. New York: John Wiley &Sons, 1997.

McDonough, Thomas R. Space: The Next Twenty-Five Years. New York: John Wiley& Sons, 1987.

Ordway, Frederick I., and Mitchell R. Sharpe. The Rocket Team. New York: ThomasY. Crowell, 1979.

Internet Resources

Hermann Oberth: Father of Space Travel. <http://www.kiosek.com/oberth/>.

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Oberth, Hermann Julius

Hermann Julius Oberth, 1894–1989, Austro-German astronautical pioneer, b. Hermannstadt, Austria-Hungary (now Sibiu, Romania). Beginning his studies in astronautics before World War I, he first proposed a liquid-propellant rocket in 1917 and in 1923 published his unsuccessful Ph.D. dissertation, The Rocket into Interplanetary Space, which discussed many aspects of rocket travel. He expanded this small pamphlet into a larger work, The Road to Space Travel (1929), which won wide recognition. During World War II he worked with Wernher von Braun in the German rocket program at Peenemünde; he again worked with von Braun in the United States after the war.

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