(March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977)
Wernher von Braun shares the March 23rd birthday with Emmy Noether and Pierre-Simon Laplace. Like some of the great scientists before him, he initially experienced difficulties with maths and physics at school. But his fascination with projectiles, coupled with his dream of becoming a rocket scientist, forced him to conquer both subjects. He graduated as a mechanical engineer in the 1930s only to see his preoccupation with space travel relegated to the background: when the Nazis prioritized weaponry over leisure. Von Braun was stationed at the Peenemuende Research Center (in northern Germany), where he spearheaded the development of V-2 rockets. Brilliant and resourceful, he quickly established himself as the world’s leading rocket scientist: exceeding the expertise of his childhood hero, Hermann Oberth. As Hitler’s wars expanded, huge allotments were allocated to the Peenemuende projects, enabling von Braun to explore new ballistic avenues. His fame and reputation were such that after the war the U.S. Army whisked him off to the USA. After debriefing him, they put him to work. He excelled effortlessly and later became a multi-award-winning director and chief architect at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (NASA). Despite having spent much of his career in Germany as a military missile scientist, von Braun gladly retransformed into a civilian one at NASA: becoming a lifelong advocate of human mission to mars. And according to NASA, he was not just the “Father of Rocket Science”, but the greatest of all rocket scientists. No one has so far disagreed.