VON BRAUN, WERNHER. 1912-1977.
VON BRAUNS PH.D. DISSERTATION.
Mimeographed Manuscript with Annotations in black ink, 166 pp with an additional 20 photostat charts and graphs bound in at rear, 4to, Berlin, April 16, 1934, titled Konstruktive, theoretische und experiementelle Beitrage su dem Problem der Flussigkeitsrakete, in later paper-covered boards, pages moderately toned with some wear to right margins, light spotting to pastedowns, repair to title page.
The first monograph on rocketry by the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States.
Born in Wirsitz, Prussia, Von Braun as a young man was an indifferent student in physics and mathematics until he read a book on the possibility of space travel by Hermann Oberth. Later he would study under Oberth at the Technical University of Berlin, and was awarded his doctorate in Physics on July 27, 1934 for a thesis titled About Combustion Tests. The full title of his thesis, however, was Construction, Theoretical, & Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket, and contained such groundbreaking work on rocketry that the German Government kept its contents classified, and its contents were not published until 1960.
During World War II Von Braun was technical director for Germanys V-2 rocket program at Peenemunde, developing liquid rocket fuel engines for jet aircraft as well as ballistic missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. After the surrender of Germany, Von Braun and his team surrendered to the American Forces, and were brought to the United States to head up the countrys rocket development team.
Von Brauns dissertation was groundbreaking at the time of writing, and is still recognized as an important milestone in modern rocket technology. Until the 20th century, all rockets, beginning with those developed by the Chinese in the 13th century, used some sort of solid fuel propellant, usually gunpowder. By the early 1900s scientists discovered that liquid propellants offered more control and greater efficiency. Though Von Braun did not invent the concept of the liquid rocket propellant, the work he did to earn his Ph.D. went a very long way to refining the subject. The benefits of liquid propellant are that it has a density similar to water while requiring only modest pressurization to prevent vaporization, and that it allows for a lighter tankage than solid fuel. On the other hand, the center of mass shifts inside a rocket as liquid fuel is spent, making it difficult to retain control of the rocket as it travels. Von Brauns dissertation attempts to tackle this weighty problem.
Provenance: Von Braun gave this copy of his dissertation to a fellow scientist on the V-2 team at Peenemunde, from whose estate it hails.