Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771


Monday, November 8, 2004 / 3:30 PM, Building 3 Auditorium

Michael Neufeld

"Von Braun, Collier's and Disney: Selling Space in the 1950s"

ABSTRACT -- The publication of the first issue of Collier's magazine devoted entirely to space in March, 1952, was a watershed in the popularization of the idea of spaceflight in the United States. In 1949, a Gallup poll indicated that only 15% of the American populace believed that humans would land on the moon by the year 2000. In the wake of a series of articles in Collier's from 1952 to 1954, several spin-off books, and three television programs on space broadcast by Walt Disney from 1955 to 1957, suddenly spaceflight seemed like a real and feasible prospect to the American populace. The most important and soon most famous contributor to the Collier's and Disney series was the controversial German-American rocketeer, Dr. Wernher von Braun. In this talk, Michael Neufeld will discuss the military and Cold War origins of von Braun's vision of space stations and spaceflight in the early 1950s, and describe its evolution and its impact on the American public.

SPEAKER -- Michael J. Neufeld is a Museum Curator at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Born in Canada, he received history degrees from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia, before getting a Ph.D. in Modern European History from The Johns Hopkins University in 1984. Before Dr. Neufeld came to the National Air and Space Museum in 1988 as A. Verville Fellow, he taught at various universities in upstate New York. In 1989-90, he held Smithsonian and NSF fellowships at NASM. In 1990, he was hired as a curator in the Aeronautics Division, where he remained until early 1999. After transferring to the Space History Division, he took over the collection of German World War II missiles, and, in 2003, Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. In fall 2001, he was a Senior Lecturer at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In addition to authoring numerous scholarly articles, Dr. Neufeld has written two books: The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg: Craft and Class in the Industrial Revolution (1989), and the prize-winning The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era (1995). He has also edited Yves Béon's memoir Planet Dora (1997) and is the co-editor of The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (2000). He is currently working on a full-length biography of Dr. Wernher von Braun.

Next Week: "The Measure of the World", Ken Alder, Northwestern University
Engineering Colloquium home page: https://ecolloq.gsfc.nasa.gov