Hermann Oberth

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Hermann Julius Oberth (25 June 1894 – 28 December 1989) was a Transylvania-born German-Hungarian physicist and engineer of Saxon (mostly) ancestry,[2][3] who along with the Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and the American Robert H. Goddard, was one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics. The three never were active collaborators, and in fact, never knew one another: instead, their parallel achievements occurred independently of one another.


Early life

Oberth was born to a Saxon family in Sibiu/Hermannstadt/Nagyszeben, in Transylvania in the Kingdom of Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (since 1920 Sibiu in Romania).[4] By his own account and that of many others, around the age of 11 years old, Oberth became fascinated with the field in which he was to make his mark through reading the writings of Jules Verne, especially From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, re-reading them to the point of memorization. Influenced by Verne's books and ideas, Oberth constructed his first model rocket as a school student at the age of 14. In his youthful experiments, he arrived independently at the concept of the multistage rocket, but he lacked then the resources to pursue his idea on any but a pencil-and-paper level.

In 1912, Oberth began the study of medicine in Munich, Germany, but at the outbreak of World War I, he was drafted into the Imperial German Army, assigned to an infantry battalion, and sent to the Eastern Front against Russia. In 1915, Oberth was moved into a medical unit at a hospital in Sighişoara/Segesvár, Transylvania, in Austria-Hungary.[5] There he found the spare time to conduct a series of experiments concerning weightlessness, and later resumed his rocketry designs. By 1917, he showed how far his studies had reached so far by firing a rocket with liquid propellant in a demonstration to Hermann von Stein, the Prussian Minister of War.[6]

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