GODDARD, ROBERT. (1882-1945). American physicist and pioneer in modern rocketry and astronautics technology; developed the first successful liquid-fuel rocket. TLS. (“R. H. Goddard”). 1p. 4to. Roswell, February 19, 1938. Written on Goddard’s Mescalero Ranch letterhead to his student and Clark University physics professor PERCY M. ROOPE (1897-1987).
Rare Letter from the American Rocketry Pioneer on His Mescalero Ranch Letterhead to His Student and Clark University Physics Professor Percy M. Roope
Signed by Robert Goddard
“I am forwarding a letter from the Institute of International Education. Probably the prices are too high even if the lectures are desirable. I recently saw a clipping showing a picture of the new gym. It looks really collegiate. Hope the next building will be equally good…”
Interested in flight and space since his youth in Worcester, Goddard studied physics at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University where he completed his PhD and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship. By 1909, he had begun investigating the possibility of a liquid-fueled rocket, and in 1913 applied for his first two patents, which would lay the groundwork for his pioneering experiments. In 1914, he was a part-time instructor at Clark using a Smithsonian grant to conduct rocketry research at the University’s physics lab. His experiments with liquid-fueled rockets began in 1921, and five years later Roope, our letter’s recipient, was part of the crew that helped Goddard launch the first liquid-fueled rocket. He was the last surviving member of that crew and recalled the historic flight in a 1982 New York Times interview, “The rocket went up and came down and we were all pleased. I believe we all went back to Dr. Goddard’s house and discussed it and had something to eat,” (“A Salute to Long Neglected ‘Father of Rocketry,’” New York Times, Wilford, October 5, 1982).
Charles Lindbergh, who had become interested in Goddard’s work after reading about it in a newspaper, helped him obtain funding from the Guggenheim family, allowing Goddard to relocate to Roswell, New Mexico, an area he deemed ideal for rocketry research because of its climate and low population. In 1930, he purchased Mescalero Ranch and conducted research in Roswell for 12 years. Over the course of his career, Goddard made 35 successful launches of liquid-propelled rockets, and reached a peak altitude of 1.7 miles with his L-13 rocket on March 26, 1937. Despite numerous attempts to alert the American military of its potential application, they remained relatively uninterested until the Navy called on him to construct rockets for jet-assisted take-off during World War II.
The Institute of International Education was established in 1919 by Nobel Peace Prize winners Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University; former Secretary of State Elihu Root; and Stephen Duggan, Sr. of the College of the City of New York, in the hope that educational exchanges would foster peace and understanding. Its most famous high profile initiative is the Fulbright Program, founded in 1946, which provides grants for American scholars to study abroad.
Roswell has remained linked to aviation and space exploration thanks to Walker Air Force Base, which began as a flight school there in 1941, becoming the largest base of the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War. It was also the site of the Roswell UFO incident.
Roope, a student of Goddard, taught physics at Clark University from 1921 to 1967. Folded and in fine condition. Scarce.