Alabama Academy of Honor

Werner von Braun

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1969.

Dr. Werner von Braun of Huntsville, one of the world's foremost space scientists, was born March 23, 1912 in Wirsitz, Germany, where his father was Secretary of Agriculture in the German government.

After graduation from Gymnasium (high school), he entered Berlin Institute of Technology in 1930, where he began his early experiments with testing of liquid-fueled rocket engines under the direction of Professor Hermann Oberth, and later under the sponsorship of the German Society for Space Travel.

Dr. von Braun received his B.S. degree in mechanical enginering in 1932, then entered the University of Berlin where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1934. He continued to do rocket research under a grant from the German Ordnance Department, and set up a small development station at Kummersdorf Army Proving Grounds.

Following his graduation, Dr. von Braun took full-time employment with the Ordnance Department, and was technical director of the Army portion of the Rocket Center Peenemuende until 1945, and directed the efforts in developing the A-5 and the V-2 long range ballistic missiles.

Following the fall of the Third Reich, Dr. von Braun consented to join the United States in her early efforts at rocket missilery and space exploration. He first directed the Research and Development Service of the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps at Fort Bliss, Texas, and in 1950, moved to Huntsville as Technical Director of the Guided Missile Development Group, Redstone Arsenal.

The years since then have seen the Huntsville facility greatly expand its experiment and research. In 1960 Dr. von Braun was named Director of the newly-created George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, under the direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The world's most powerful rockets at the time were developed at the Huntsville facility under Dr. von Braun's guidance. He was directly involved in the continuing American space exploration efforts, including the development of the Saturn 1 and the Saturn V boosters, the Gemini managed-flight project, and the Apollo Moon Flight project.

Dr. von Braun was the recipient of numerous awards for his outstanding contributions to the American space effort in particular and to science in general. He received the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1958, the Distinguished Federal Civilian Service Award from President Eisenhower in 1959, the American Astronautics Award from the American Rocket Society in 1955, the Gold Medal Award from the British Interplanetary Society in 1961, the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership in 1964, and the Smithsonian Institution Langley Medal in 1967, to name a few.

He held honorary doctorate degrees from 19 colleges and universities. Dr. von Braun was a member of numerous professional societies and was the author of dozens of books and articles. He was married to the former Marie Louise von Quistorp. They have three children, Iris Careen Margrit Cecile, and Peter Constantine. Dr. von Braun is now deceased.