Class of 1908 and Father of Modern Rocketry

Robert Goddard, often called the "Father of Modern Rocketry," graduated from WPI in 1908, a general science major. Even as an undergraduate student, Goddard dreamed of space flight, submitting an article, "Possibility of Investigating Interplanetary Space," to Scientific American in 1907. Also while an undergraduate, Goddard published an article in the WPI Journal, which at the time was devoted to technical literature. The article dealt with the use of the gyroscope in balancing and steering airplanes.

Despite his scientific interests, Goddard seems to have been popular among classmates, being elected class vice president and president and serving as editor of the class yearbook.

After graduation, Goddard served on WPI's Physics Department faculty for two years, and then did advanced study at Clark University. During this time, he continued to use WPI facilities for his experiments. Legend has it that while using a lab in Salisbury, explosions caused some damage and he was then moved to the Magnetic Lab (now Skull Tomb). Even here, neighbors complained of hearing loud noises.

Goddard went on to lay the foundations for the development of long range rockets, missiles, satellites and spaceflight. He was the first to use liquid propellants as rocket fuel, with the first successful launch of a liquid-fueled rocket from Auburn, Massachusetts, March 16, 1926. After his teaching career at Clark ended in 1934, Goddard worked for the U.S. government on rocket research until his death in 1945. 

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WPI Robert Goddard with rocket
In 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.

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Lyndon Johnson signs Robert Goddard
The pen President Johnson used to sign the law on March 16, 1965 recognizing Robert Goddard's contribution to modern rocketry.

Chronological History of the Career of Robert H.Goddard

DATE EVENT
1882 Born at Maple Hill, Worcester, Massachusetts
1883 Moved with family to Boston, Massachusetts
1898 Moved with family to Maple Hill, Worcester, Massachusetts
1904-1908 Student, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (B.S. in 1908)
1908-1909 Faculty, Dept. of Physics, WPI, and special student in Physics, Clark University
1909-1911 Fellow in Physics, Clark University (A.M. 1910, Ph.D. 1911)
1911-1912, 1914-1915, 1918-1920 Honorary Fellow in Physics, Clark University
1912-1913 Research instructor in Physics, Princeton University
1914, July Awarded first two patents for a rocket apparatus: A Liquid Fuel Gun Rocket, and a Multistage Step Rocket.
1917, January 5 Received first financial assistance from the Smithsonian Institution
1920-1923 Part-time consultant on solid propellant rocket weapons for U.S. government at Indian Head, Maryland
1923-1943 Director of Physical Laboratories, Clark University
1924, June 21 Married Esther Christine Kisk
1926, March 16 First to develop and launch a liquid-propellant rocket, at Auburn, Massachusetts.
1930, July 10 -1932 First two-year grant from Daniel Guggenheim, began conducting full-time rocket research at Roswell, New Mexico (on leave of absence from Clark University)
1942-1945 Director of Research, Navy Dept., Bureau of Aeronautics developing jet-assisted takeoff and variable thrust liquid propellant rockets, at Roswell, New Mexico and Annapolis Maryland
1943-1945 Consulting Engineer, Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Caldwell, New Jersey
1944-1945 Director, American Rocket Society
1945, June 2 Received honorary Doctor of Science degree, Clark University
1945, August 10 Died at Baltimore, Maryland. Buried at Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts

Chronological History of the Scientific Accomplishments of Robert H.Goddard

DATE EVENT
1912 First explored mathematically the practicality of using rocket power to reach high altitudes and escape velocity
1915 First proved experimentally that a rocket will provide thrust in a vacuum
1917-1918 Developed the basis for the rocket weapon, The Bazooka, done for U.S. Army Signal Corps and Ordinance Department, in the Magnetic Lab (now Skull Tomb) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, at Clark University, and later at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California
1919 Published "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes," in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol.71, No. 2, a basic mathematical theory underlying rocket propulsion
1920-1925 First to develop a rocket motor using liquid propellants
1925 Liquid-propellant rocket lifted its own weight for first time
1926, March 16 First to develop and launch a liquid-propellant rocket, at Auburn, Massachusetts
1929, July 17 Tested first rocket containing instruments in Auburn, Massachusetts
1932 First developed gyro stabilization apparatus for rockets
1932 Used deflector vanes in the blast of the rocket motor as a method of stabilizing and guiding rockets
1934-1942 "A" series rocket tests (14-test series; rockets at this stage were about 15 feet long)
1935, March 8 First to launch a liquid propellant rocket which attained a speed greater than that of sound (700 m.p.h.)
1935 Rocket reached altitude of 7500 feet
1936, March 16 Publication of "Liquid Propellant Rocket Development," Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 95, No. 3
1936-1938 "L" series rocket tests (30-test series; rockets were about 18 feet long)
1937 Rocket reached height of 9000 feet
1938-1941 "P" series rocket tests (This 36-test series represents his last flight rockets. Rockets averaged about 22 feet in length)