Hermann Oberth

Hermann Oberth : Nazi Germany

Hermann Oberth, the son of a doctor, was born in Nagyszeben on 25th June, 1894. Oberth studied medicine in Munich but had to leave university when he was recruited into the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War.

After the war he studied astronautics at the University of Heidelberg where he designed a long-range, liquid-propellant rocket. His Ph.D. dissertation on rocket design was rejected by the university in 1922. He therefore published his research as a book The Rocket into Interplanetary Space (1925).

In his book The Rocket into Interplanetary Space Oberth argued that it was mathematically possible for a rocket to achieve such high speeds that it would be able to escape the Earth's gravitational pull. Oberth's book was read by Wernher von Braun and encouraged him to carry out research into this field.

In 1929 Oberth published Ways to Spaceflight. Working at the University of Vienna he continued to carry out experiments and launched his first rocket near Berlin on 7th May, 1931.

In 1941 Oberth was recruited by Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun to work at the rocket research station at Peenemunde. Together they develop the long-range ballistic missile, the V2 Rocket. This 45 feet long, liquid-fuelled rocket carried a one ton warhead, and was capable of supersonic speed and could fly at an altitude of over 50 miles. As a result it could not be effectively stopped once launched.

During the Second World War Oberth left the V2 Rocket project and concentrated on developing solid-propellant anti-aircraft rockets. At the end of the war Oberth escaped to Switzerland.

In 1950 Oberth worked on antiaircraft rockets for the Italian Navy before moving to the United States in 1955. Hermann Oberth died in Nurnberg, West Germany, on 29th December, 1989.