Born: 1906-11-05. Died: 2004-08-30.
Fred L. Whipple was born in Red Oak, Iowa. He received a BS in Mathematics from UCLA, then turned to astronomy after polio destroyed his hopes of a career in tennis. He received his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1931 and then served on the faculty of Harvard University. During World War II he invented chaff - strips of aluminum cut a specific lengths that would be dropped from allied bombers to screen them from German radar. He was involved in efforts in the early 1950s to expand public interest in the possibility of spaceflight through a series of symposia at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and articles in Collier's magazine. It was at this time he conceived of the meteor bumper, sometimes called a Whipple shield, to protect spacecraft from meteoroids. He was also heavily involved in planning for the International Geophysical Year, 1957-1958. As a path breaking astronomer he pioneered research on comets.
Awakening public interest in the United States and in Europe was manifested by publication in September 1949 of The Conquest of Space by Willy Ley. Ley featured detailed descriptions of orbital space stations and manned flights to the Moon and back as part of man's quest to conquer the frontier of space. The First Symposium on Space Flight was held 12 October 1951 at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Papers read at the Symposium were published in March 1952 by Collier's magazine under the title 'Man Will Conquer Space Soon.' Contributors were Wernher von Braun, Joseph Kaplan, Heinz Haber, Willy Ley, Oscar Schachter, and Fred L. Whipple. Topics ranged from manned orbiting space station) and orbiting astronomical observatories to problems of human survival in space, lunar space ventures, and questions of international law and sovereignty in space. Finally, Arthur C. Clarke's The Exploration of Space, first published in England in 1951 and a Book of the Month Club selection in America the following year, persuasively argued the case for orbital space stations and manned lunar and planetary space expeditions, popularizing the notion of space flight in general.