Robert Hutchings Goddard was a futurist. He was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on October 5, 1882. He was the son of a machinist and his father was known for his brilliance with machinery and tools. The Goddard’s moved from Worcester to Boston while Robert was just an infant, because his father went in half and half on a local machine tools shop. In Boston, is where the young Robert Goddard spent his youth as an only child, and most of his younger years were spent alone at home due to his mother’s illness with tuberculosis.
Robert would not see his family’s hometown of Worcester again until he was seventeen in 1899. Much of his life was spent as an ill child (Spangenburg, 10), and he was an average student with an aversion to mathematics. Illness kept him out of school entirely in that autumn of 1899, and by this time Robert had only completed his freshman year of high school. Although he was unable to spend a lot of time within institutional walls, the young Goddard was not without a strong yearning to learn--at least to learn science. Much of the time he spent sick at home sick was consumed reading the Scientific American, or books from the library both science and science fiction novels—-especially H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, a novel he would re-examine often in later years (Burrows, 32).
Robert Goddard found happiness while doing his chores and often used found this time for relaxing. Like many young seventeen year olds, the time was spent daydreaming and this was the case on the 19th day of October 1899. Little did the young man know that this entry in his diary would change his entire life:
“As I looked toward the fields in the east I imagined
how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars, and how it would look on a small scale if sent up from the meadow at my feet. . .It seemed to me that a weight whirling around a horizontal shaft, moving more rapidly above than below, could furnish lift by virtue of the greater centrifugal force at the top of the path. I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended, for existence at last seemed very purposive.” (Yost, 145)
This new idea was known as the linear-force-from-eccentric-rotation, and although it was only a daydream of the young man, it was the spark that would ignite Goddard’s unending dream of space travel. The only thing that stood in his way was his lack of education, and in order to make his dream a reality he would have to return to high school and finish his education facing his dreaded mathematics courses. When Robert finally got over his sickness, two years had gone by but, he now was ready to enroll in his sophomore year at South High School in Worcester. With the help of his physics instructor, Calvin C. Andrews, and his mathematics instructor, Miss Hill, the aspiring scientist graduated in 1904 with honors. He remains the oldest student to receive a diploma from...