Herman Potočnik

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Herman Potočnik (pseudonym Hermann Noordung) (December 22, 1892 - August 27, 1929) was an Austro-Hungarian rocket engineer and pioneer of cosmonautics (astronautics). He is chiefly remembered for his work addressing the long-term human habitation of space.


Early life

Potočnik was born in Pola, southern Istria, Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia). His birth is recorded by birth register, which is kept in archive in Pazin. His family originated from Slovenj Gradec and Vitanje, both in Slovenia.

The meaning of his German-like pseudonym Noordung is still a mystery, but some suggest that he used it to show the problems of chaos (German: Ordnung, "order"; ordunga in Slovene colloquial language). Assuming that the initial "N" may have been intended to stand as a negation, the name would mean "without order" or "no order".

His father Jožef was born in 1841 in Zgornji Razbor near Slovenj Gradec and at the time of Herman's birth he served as a doctor and high navy officer in the Austro-Hungarian Navy harbour of Pula. His mother Minka was born February 7, 1854. She was a descendant of Czech immigrants, manufacturers of crucibles for glass-making and a daughter of a well known wine merchant and local councillor Jožef Kokošinek from Maribor, later also Vitanje. Father Jožef in 1866 participated in the second Battle of Vis, where Austro-Hungarian Navy under command of von Tegetthoff defeated Royal Italian Navy commanded by Count di Persano. Jožef was later a general in Austro-Hungarian Army.

When Herman's father died in 1894, his mother moved the family to Maribor (at that time also officially named Marburg). Herman had two brothers Adolf and Gustav (who were both navy officers), and a sister Franci. He spent most of his childhood years in Maribor and Vitanje.

Education and military service

In Maribor Potočnik attended primary school. Afterward he went to the military secondary schools in Fischau and Hranice (Mährisch-Weißkirchen) in Moravia. His uncle Heinrich was a Major-General in the Army, and probably enabled his study at Austrian military schools. From 1910 to 1913 he studied at the technical military academy in Mödling in Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) near Vienna and graduated as an engineers second lieutenant. His specialization was building of railways and bridges.

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