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Archives and Special Collections: Robert H. Goddard Collection

An introduction to the materials available in Clark University's Archives and Special Collections.

Esther Goddard

Esther Goddard looks at the camera with one hand on her chin.  Esther Christine (Kisk) Goddard (1901–1982) tirelessly cataloged Robert Goddard's work after his death, filing over 131 of his patents.

Accessing the Robert Goddard Collection

Robert H. Goddard

Robert Hutchings Goddard is known as the "father of modern day rocketry" for his contributions to the study of rockets.  He launched the first successful liquid-fueled rocket, proved that a rocket could provide thrust in a vacuum, and developed gyro stabilization for rockets.

  • Robert Goddard was born at Maple Hill in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1882.
  • He attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute, graduating with a B.S. in 1908.  He also attended Clark University as a "Special Student" in Physics, then a Fellow, receiving an A.M. 1910, Ph.D. 1911.
  • Goddard continued to teach at Clark and became the Head of the Physics Department.
  • He was awarded first two patents for rocket apparatus: U.S. Letters Patent #1,102,653 liquid-fuel gun rocket; U.S. Letters Patent #1, 103,503 a multistage step rocket.  Goddard was eventually awarded 214 patents between 1914-1956.
  • He proved experimentally that a rocket will provide thrust in a vacuum in 1915.
  • On March 16, 1926, he was the first to launch a liquid-propellant rocket, at Auburn, MA.
  • Goddard received funds from the Smithsonian and the Guggenheims at several points in his career to fund his research.
  • In 1930, he began conducting full-time rocketry research in Roswell, New Mexico with a grant from the Guggenheim family.
  • Next, he worked in Annapolis, Maryland as the Director of Research, Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics.  Goddard developed jet-assisted takeoff and variable-thrust liquid- propellant rockets.
  • Goddard died in 1945.  His legacy was preserved and touted by his wife, Esther Christine Kisk Goddard, who organized and published his papers, pursued many of his patents, and commissioned his biography.

That Moon Rocket will need a little Ballast to STeady It

Oakland California Tribune, January 14, 1920.  Many newspapers mocked Goddard  after he published a mathematical theory about rocket propulsion and rocket flight, "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes", Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 71, No. 2.