A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes [with:] Liquid Propellant Rocket Development.

Washington D.C. Smithsonian Institution, 1919 & 1936.

First edition, presentation copies in the original printed wrappers, inscribed by Goddard, and with a highly important association, of the most influential early works on rocketry, which provided the foundation for the modern space age. “Having explored the mathematical practicality of rocketry since 1906 and the experimental workability of reaction engines in laboratory vacuum tests since 1912, Goddard began to accumulate ideas for probing beyond the earth’s stratosphere. His first two patents in 1914, for a liquid-fuel gun rocket and a multistage step rocket, led to some modest recognition and financial support from the Smithsonian Institution … The publication in 1919 of his seminal paper ‘A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes’ gave Goddard distorted publicity because he had suggested that jet propulsion could be used to attain escape velocity and that this theory could be proved by crashing a flash-powder missile on the moon. Sensitive to criticism of his moon-rocket idea, he worked quietly and steadily toward the perfection of his rocket technology and techniques … Among Goddard’s successful innovations were fuel-injections systems, regenerative cooling of combustion chambers, gyroscopic stabilization and control, instrumented payloads and recovery systems, guidance vanes in the exhaust plume, gimbaled and clustered engines, and aluminium fuel and oxidizer pumps” (DSB). The 1919 paper described work on rockets that were fed with a continuous stream of solid charges, but this method eventually proved unfeasible, and in 1922 Goddard went back to an earlier idea of his, proposed independently by Oberth in Germany and also noted by Tsiolkovsky in Russia: a liquid-fuel rocket. Goddard successfully launched the first such rocket on March 16, 1926, ushering in an era of space flight and innovation. The results of Goddard’s research into liquid-fuel rockets are presented in the 1936 paper offered here. “Years after his death, at the dawn of the Space Age, Goddard came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry, along with Robert Esnault-Pelterie, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Hermann Oberth. He not only recognized the potential of rockets for atmospheric research, ballistic missiles and space travel but was the first to scientifically study, design and construct the rockets needed to implement those ideas. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center was named in Goddard’s honor in 1959” (Wikipedia). We have located only one presentation copy of the first work in auction records (Christie’s, 13 December 2006, lot 145, £4200), a copy rebound in modern wrappers and with later institutional stamps; and one of the second (RR Auction, 2014, $4773).

Provenance: “With the author’s compliments” written in ink in Goddard’s hand at lower right corner of front wrapper of first work, “With the author’s compliments // R. H. Goddard” written in ink in Goddard’s hand at upper right corner of front wrapper of second work, presented to; Clarence Hickman (signed by him in ink at top of front wrapper and on first page of text of first work).

Goddard (1882-1945) became interested in space when he read H. G. Wells’ science fiction classic The War of the Worlds at 16 years old. He received his B.S. degree in physics from Worcester Polytechnic in 1908, and after serving there for a year as an instructor, he began his graduate studies at Clark University in the fall of 1909. Goddard received his M.A. degree in physics from Clark in 1910, and then stayed on to complete his Ph.D. in physics in 1911. After another year at Clark as an honorary fellow in physics, in 1912 he accepted a research fellowship at Princeton University.

By this time he had in his spare time developed the mathematics which allowed him to calculate the position and velocity of a rocket in vertical flight, given the weight of the rocket and weight of the propellant and the velocity (with respect to the rocket frame) of the exhaust gases. In effect he had independently developed the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation published a decade earlier in Russia. In early 1913, Goddard became seriously ill with tuberculosis and had to leave his position at Princeton. He then returned to Worcester, where he began a prolonged process of recovery at home. It was during this period of recuperation that Goddard began to produce some of his most important work. By the fall of 1914, Goddard’s health had improved, and he accepted a part-time position as an instructor and research fellow at Clark University. His position at Clark allowed him to further his rocketry research, but by 1916 the cost of Goddard’s rocket research had become too great for his modest teaching salary to bear. He began to solicit potential sponsors for financial assistance, beginning with the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian was interested and asked Goddard to elaborate upon his initial inquiry. Goddard responded with a detailed manuscript he had already prepared, entitled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. Two years later, Goddard arranged for the Smithsonian to publish this manuscript, updated with footnotes.

In late 1919, the Smithsonian published Goddard’s groundbreaking work, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. The report describes Goddard’s mathematical theories of rocket flight, his experiments with solid-fuel rockets, and the possibilities he saw of exploring Earth’s atmosphere and beyond. Along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s earlier work, The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices, which was not widely disseminated outside Russia, Goddard’s report is regarded as one of the pioneering works of the science of rocketry, and 1750 copies were distributed worldwide. Goddard also sent a copy to individuals who requested one, until his personal supply was exhausted. Smithsonian aerospace historian Frank Winter said that this paper was ‘one of the key catalysts behind the international rocket movement of the 1920s and 30s.’

“Goddard described extensive experiments with solid-fuel rocket engines burning high-grade nitrocellulose smokeless powder. A critical breakthrough was the use of the steam turbine nozzle invented by the Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval. The de Laval nozzle allows the most efficient conversion of the energy of hot gases into forward motion. By means of this nozzle, Goddard increased the efficiency of his rocket engines from two percent to 64 percent and obtained supersonic exhaust velocities of over Mach 7.

“Though most of this work dealt with the theoretical and experimental relations between propellant, rocket mass, thrust, and velocity, a final section, entitled ‘Calculation of minimum mass required to raise one pound to an 'infinite' altitude,’ discussed the possible uses of rockets, not only to reach the upper atmosphere but to escape from Earth’s gravitation altogether. He determined, using an approximate method to solve his differential equations, that a rocket with an effective exhaust velocity of 7000 feet per second and an initial weight of 602 pounds would be able to send a one-pound payload to an infinite height” (Wikipedia).

“Toward the end of [A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes], Goddard outlined the possibility of a rocket reaching the moon and exploding a load of flash powder there to mark its arrival. The bulk of his scientific report to the Smithsonian was a dry explanation of how he used the $5,000 grant in his research. The press picked up Goddard’s scientific proposal about a rocket flight to the moon, however, and created a journalistic controversy concerning the feasibility of such a thing. The resulting ridicule created in Goddard firm convictions about the nature of the press corps, which he held for the rest of his life.

“Goddard’s greatest engineering contributions were made during his work in the 1920s and 1930s. He received a total of $10,000 from the Smithsonian by 1927, and through the personal efforts of Charles A. Lindbergh, he subsequently received financial support from the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation. Progress on all of his work, titled ‘Liquid Propellant Rocket Development,’ was published by the Smithsonian in 1936.

“Goddard’s work largely anticipated in technical detail the later German V-2 missiles, including gyroscopic control, steering by means of vanes in the jet stream of the rocket motor, gimbal-steering, power-driven fuel pumps and other devices. His rocket flight in 1929 carried the first scientific payload, a barometer, and a camera. Goddard developed and demonstrated the basic idea of the ‘bazooka’ two days before the Armistice in 1918 at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. His launching platform was a music rack. In World War II, Goddard again offered his services and was assigned by the U.S. Navy to the development of practical jet assisted take-off and liquid propellant rocket motors capable of variable thrust. In both areas, he was successful …

Goddard was the first scientist who not only realized the potentialities of missiles and space flight but also contributed directly in bringing them to practical realization. Goddard had a rare talent in both creative science and practical engineering. The dedicated labors of this modest man went largely unrecognized in the United States until the dawn of the Space Age. High honors and wide acclaim, belated but richly deserved, now come to the name of Robert H. Goddard” (https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/about/history/dr_goddard.html).

Both pamphlets were presented by Goddard to Clarence N. Hickman (1889-1981), an early associate and long-time friend of Goddard. They met shortly after Hickman began graduate studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1917. Goddard, who was then head of the physics department at Clark, had heard about Hickman’s reputation for mechanical ability and asked him about a problem he was having with multiple-charge rockets. Hickman solved the problem and Goddard suggested that Hickman continue working on rocket development with him once Hickman completed his degree. After Goddard moved from Worcester to Pasadena’s Mount Wilson Observatory in 1918, Hickman went with him and the two continued their work together. It was there that they successfully developed the ‘Rocket-Powered Recoilless Weapon’, later known as the bazooka. Although further work on the bazooka was suspended after the war ended, the two men continued to work together at Clark's Industrial Research Laboratory during the early 1920s. Hickman joined Bell Laboratories in 1930, and there developed magnetic recording on metal tape. In 1940, Hickman headed Section H of the National Defense Research Committee, an organization created "to coordinate, supervise, and conduct scientific research on the problems underlying the development, production, and use of mechanisms and devices of warfare”, and appointed Goddard as a consultant. But Goddard’s work was rejected by the US authorities, a decision they came to regret as it eventually fell into the hands of Werner von Braun, who used it to develop the V-1 and V-2 rockets which the Germans used to devastating effect in the latter part of the War. After the War ended, Hickman returned to Bell Labs, retiring in 1950.

Parkinson p. 489.



8vo (245 x 165 mm), pp. [4], 69, with 25 photographic images on 10 plates. Original brown printed wrappers (spine rubbed, slightly chipped at extremities). [With:] 8vo, pp. [2], 10, with 11 pages of photographic plates. Original brown printed wrappers (very slight wear to extremities, light vertical crease), uncut, a very good copy.

Item #4854

Price: $39,500.00