“God Pity A One-Dream Man”


Such speculations are almost commonplace today; in 1918 they were revolutionary. Robert Goddard’s vision, messianic, was a vision of space travel as the only final salvation of his species. Thus the anniversary kept faithfully in his diary. Thus the lifetime of determined effort, the brilliant, sustained invention. Thus also the patents and the meticulous recording of priorities, the unwillingness to “play ball.” He might have sought wealth, he might have sired children, he might have promoted his talents to early fame: instead he devoted himself to the ultimate future of mankind. He was a quiet man, even a humble man, but in return for his unselfish devotion he wanted one intangible reward. He wanted the record straight. He wanted history to record that he, Robert Hutchings Goddard, a sickly New England boy slung dreaming in a backyard cherry tree, had conceived the means, the physical, corporeal means, by which the human race might at last escape the mire of the earth, the ultimate death of extinction. And he was right: he had.

For further reading: The Papers of Robert H. Goddard, edited by Esther C. Goddard (1970); This High Man by Milton Lehman (1963).