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10 Unappreciated Geniuses

Robert Goddard

Without Goddard, we never would have landed on the moon. A brilliant engineer, he became entranced with rocketry at 17-years-old after experiencing a waking dream of a spaceship being launched to Mars from his backyard. So yeah, he was the Joan of Arc of science, blessed with lucid visions of epic events. His landmark 1919 paper, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, was a detailed roadmap to outer space. But the media thought he was some kind of mad scientist, and The New York Times wrote a particularly scathing response to his work, in which they accused him of not understanding elementary physics because he advocated using rockets in a vacuum.

Things went from bad to worse when the German rocketry program stole Goddard's design plans to build their V-2 offensive missile. Despite being the greatest rocket scientist in the world, Goddard was not supported by his own country until it was too late. He died in 1945, sadly not witnessing the resurgence of his work which led to the Apollo Program. But perhaps what he would have enjoyed most about the first moon landing was a long overdue apology from The New York Times, issued a day after launch. They acknowledged that rockets do, in fact, work in a vacuum, as if the propulsion system of Apollo 11 needed their permission to function. Today, the scientists at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center live up to his daring, idealistic legacy, most recently with the Curiosity rover.

Tags: science, slideshows, life, geniuses, nikola tesla, thomas edison

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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