Robert Hutchings Goddard , the Rocket Man

Robert Hutchings Goddard is the American physicist and mathematician who pioneered rocket propulsion and the first to explore the potential to travel in space. He also influenced the people responsible for creating missiles and guiding systems that have become very significant in the United States line of defense. Thanks to Goddard, he also constructed the first liquid-fueled rocket. This article presents the journey Goddard took to reach these accomplishments.

The Early Years

Goddard was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1882. At an early age, his father sparked an interest in science that involved curiosity about flight. When Goddard reached his teenage years, he experimented with balloons and kites. During his studies, he wrote down everything that transpired. This foundation in record keeping would become quite useful when he reached adulthood. When the first seeds of space travel were planted, Goddard was actually sitting in a cherry tree at the time. He was 16 years old and he imagined what it would be like to send a rocket into space. The year was 1899 when these thoughts first entered his head.

As a child, Goddard missed a great deal of school due to failing health. While he fell behind his classmates, he still continued his studies at home by reading books from the library. Science was his favorite subject. He excelled in school despite being out of the classroom and when he finally returned, he enjoyed a fruitful education as a popular student. Goddard was also elected twice as class president and when he graduated in 1904, the students voted him to give the speech of the valedictorian.

After high school, Goddard went on to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In no time, he was given the position of tutor and lab assistant by the head of the physics department.

Goddard also wrote about his studies, research, theories, and findings. A paper written in college (1907) was published in Scientific American, where he described a method for stabilizing an aircraft in flight. When he graduated in 1908 with a Bachelor of Science degree, he taught for one year before heading to Clark University in Worcester to study traditional powder-powered rockets. During this time, he researched ways on how to increase efficiency by using liquid fuels. Clark University was where Goddard received a master’s degree (1910) and his PhD in 1911.

Princeton and Clark Research

After receiving his PhD, Goddard spent the next two years at Princeton University as a research fellow. He used his math skills to create a mathematical approach towards calculating the speed and trajectory of a rocket. Some of the factors he looked at were the changing weights and the effects of burning fuel. He then went on to construct a working prototype. Not even a bout with tuberculosis kept Goddard from his research. He continued to work and in the end , patented designs for a multistage rocket, as well as for a rocket that worked off of liquid fuel.

This would become highly influential for advancements in rocketry.