name = Hermann Oberth
caption =Oberth (in front) with fellow ABMA employees.
Left to right: Dr.
Ernst Stuhlinger, Major General Holger Toftoy, Oberth,
Wernher von Braun, and Dr. Robert Lusser
June 25, 1894
birth_place = Schäßburg,
Austria-Hungary(now Sighişoara, Romania)
December 28, 1989
nationality = Austro-Hungarian
Hermann Julius Oberth (
June 25, 1894– December 28, 1989) was a Austro-Hungarian-born, German (Transylvanian Saxon) physicist, and, along with the Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovskyand the American Robert Goddard, one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. The three were never active collaborators: instead, their parallel achievements occurred independently of one another.
Oberth was born to a Saxon family in the
Transylvanian city of Schäßburg (Romanian Sighişoara, Hungarian Segesvár, today Romania). By his own account and that of many others, around the age of 11 Oberth became fascinated with the field in which he was to make his mark through the writings of Jules Verne, especially " From the Earth to the Moon" and " Around the Moon", re-reading them to the point of memorization. Influenced by Verne's books and ideas, Oberth constructed his first model rocketas a school student of 14. In his youthful experiments, he arrived independently at the concept of the multistage rocket, but lacked, at the time, the resources to pursue his idea on any but a theoretical level.
In 1912, Oberth undertook the study of medicine in
Munichbut at the outbreak of World War Ihe was drafted in an Imperial German infantry battalion and sent to the Eastern Front; in 1915 he was moved to a medical unit in a hospital in Sighişoara.ro icon Jürgen Heinz Ianzer, [http://www.aspera.ro/dl/oberth.pdf "Hermann Oberth, pǎrintele zborului cosmic" ("Hermann Oberth, Father of the Cosmic Flight")] , p. 3, 11, 13, 15.] Here he initially conducted a series of experiments concerning weightlessnessand later resumed his rocket designs. By 1917, he showed what his studies were about and what would become a shooting missile with liquid propellant to Hermann von Stein, the Prussian Minister of War."Mort de Hermann Oberth, pionnier de la conquête spatiale" ("The Death of Hermann Oberth, Space Conquest Pioneer"), in " Le Monde", January 1, 1990, p. 3, 16, accessed on October 7, 2006.]
July 6, 1918he married Mathilde Hummel, with whom he had four children, among them a son who died at the front during World War II, and a daughter who also died during the war, when a liquid oxygenplant exploded in a workplace accident in August 1944. In 1919 he moved once again to Germany, this time to study physics, initially in Munichand later in Göttingen.
In 1922, his doctoral dissertation on rocket science was rejected as "utopian". He had the 92-page work privately published in June of 1923 as the controversial "Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen" ("By Rocket into Planetary Space"); in 1929, Oberth would expand this to a 429-page work entitled "Wege zur Raumschiffahrt" ("Ways to Spaceflight"). Oberth commented later that he made the deliberate choice not to write another doctoral dissertation: "I refrained from writing another one, thinking to myself: Never mind, I will prove that I am able to become a greater scientist than some of you, even without the title of doctor." [http://www.kiosek.com/oberth/ "Hermann Oberth, Father of Space Travel", at Kiosek.com] ] He criticized the German system of education, saying "Our educational system is like an automobile which has strong rear lights, brightly illuminating the past. But looking forward things are barely discernible." Hermann Oberth was finally awarded with the title of doctor in physics with the same paper, by professor Augustin Maior, at
Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca( Romania), on May 23, 1923.
He became a member of the "
Verein für Raumschiffahrt" (VfR - "Spaceflight Society"), an amateur rocket group that had taken great inspiration from his book and acted as something of a mentor to the enthusiasts that made it up. For several years before his final departure from Romania in 1938, Oberth taught physics and mathematics at the Stephan Ludwig RothHigh School in Mediaş.
Rocketry and space flight
In 1928 and 1929 Oberth worked in
Berlinas a scientific consultant on the first film ever to have scenes set in space, " Frau im Mond" ("The Woman in the Moon"), directed at Universum Film AGby Fritz Lang. The film was of enormous value in popularizing the idea of rocket science. Oberth's main task was to build and launch a rocket as a publicity event prior to the film's premiere. On June 5, 1929, Oberth won the first REP-Hirsch Prize of the French Astronomical Society for his Encouragement of Astronautics in his book "Wege zur Raumschiffahrt" (Ways to Spaceflight) that expanded "Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen" to a full-length book. ["L'Aerophile", June 1-15, 1929, p.176; L. Blosset, "Smithsonian Annals of Flight", No. 10, p. 11]
In autumn 1929, Oberth launched his first liquid fuel rocket, named "Kegeldüse". He was helped in this experiment by his students at the
Technical University of Berlin, one of whom was Wernher von Braun, who would later head the wartime project to develop the rocket officially called the "A4", but far better known today as the V-2 rocket.
In 1938 the Oberth family left
Sibiufor good, to settle first in Nazi Germany. Oberth himself moved on first to the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, then the Technische Hochschule in Dresden. Oberth arrived at Peenemündein 1941 to work on the V-2 and circa September 1943, was awarded the "Kriegsverdienstkreuz I Klasse mit Schwertern" (War Merit Cross 1st Class, with Swords) for his "outstanding, courageous behavior … during the attack" of Peenemündeby Operation Hydra. [cite book |last=Ordway |first= Frederick I., III.|authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Rocket Team |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= Apogee Books Space Series 36|date= |year= |month= |publisher= |location= |language= |isbn= |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=36|chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] Oberth later worked on solid-propellant anti-aircraft rockets at the WASAGcomplex near Wittenberg. At the end of the war the Oberth family moved to Feucht, near Nuremberg. Oberth left for Switzerlandin 1948, where he worked as an independent consultant and a writer.
In 1950 he went on to
Italy, where he completed the work he had begun at WASAG for the Italian Navy. In 1953 he returned to Feucht to publish his book "Menschen im Weltraum" ("Man in Space"), in which he described his ideas for a space-based reflecting telescope, a space station, an electric spaceship, and space suits.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Oberth offered his opinions regarding
unidentified flying objects; he was a supporter of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. For example, in an article in "The American Weekly", October 24, 1954, he stated: "It is my thesis that flying saucers are real and that they are space ships from another solar system. I think that they possibly are manned by intelligent observers who are members of a race that may have been investigating our earth for centuries..." [ [http://www.mufon.com/znews_oberth.html Schuessler, John L., "Statements About Flying Saucers And Extraterrestrial Life Made By Prof. Hermann Oberth, German Rocket Scientist" 2002] ; for example, the American Weekly article appeared in the " Washington Postand Times Herald", pg. AW4 ]
Oberth eventually came to work for his ex-student von Braun, developing space rockets in
Huntsville, Alabamain the United States("see also List of German rocket scientists in the United States"). Among other things, Oberth was involved in writing a study, "The Development of Space Technology in the Next Ten Years". In 1958 Hermann was back in Feucht, where he published his ideas on a lunar exploration vehicle, a "lunar catapult", and on "muffled" helicopters and airplanes. In 1960, in the United States again, he went to work for Convairas a technical consultant on the Atlas rocket.
Hermann Oberth retired in 1962 at the age of 68. From 1965 to 1967 he was a member of the
far rightNational Democratic Party. In July 1969, he returned to the US to witness the launch of the Saturn Vrocket that carried the Apollo 11crew on the first landing mission to the Moon. [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/SPACEFLIGHT/oberth/SP2.htm "Hermann Oberth"] , at the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission]
The 1973 energy crisis inspired Oberth to look at alternative energy sources, including a plan for a wind power station that could utilize the
jet stream. However, his main interest in retirement was to turn to more abstract philosophical questions. Most notable among his several books from this period is "Primer For Those Who Would Govern".
Oberth died in Nuremberg, on
December 28, 1989. cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Hermann Oberth, 95, German Rocket Expert |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DEFD81F3DF932A05751C1A96F948260 |quote=Hermann Julius Oberth, a pioneer of the space age who worked with Werner von Braun to help develop Germany's V-2 rocket, died on Friday. He was 95 years old. Mr. Oberth died at a hospital in Nuremberg after a short illness, the Hermann Oberth Museum in Feucht said in a statement. |publisher= New York Times|date= December 31, 1989|accessdate=2008-04-10 ]
Oberth is memorialized by the
Hermann Oberth Space Travel Museumin Feucht, and by the Hermann Oberth Society, which brings together scientists, researchers and astronauts from East and West in order to carry on his work in rocketry and space exploration.
Also, a crater on the Moon was named after him ("see
Oberth effectis named after him.
"" featured an "Oberth"-class
starshipin his honor: this class was subsequently used in various episodes of .
Macross" (and its " Robotech" reinterpretation) also featured an "Oberth" class of space-based destroyers.
"" features Hermann Oberth as the "teacher" of the films protagonist, Edward Elric. Oberth is also mentioned in the last episode of
Fullmetal Alchemist. In that episode Edward has heard of a great scientist, named Oberth, with curious theories. The last moments of the series are Edward on a train to meet Oberth; determined to study rocketry with him.
Hideo Kojima's space adventure game, " Policenauts", there is an extravehicular mobility suit called the Oberth.
Verein für Raumschiffahrt
Wernher von BraunIn Sibiu, Romania the engineering university have his name "Hermann Obert Engineering University"
*"The Moon Car" (1959)
*"The Electric Spaceship" (1960)
*"Ways to Spaceflight" (1929)
*"Primer for Those Who Would Govern" (1987) ISBN 0-914301-06-3
* [http://www.oberth-museum.org/ The Hermann Oberth Space Museum]
* [http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1003.htm Statements About Flying Saucers and Extraterrestrial Life Made by Hermann Oberth]
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