Prodan Romanian Cultural Foundation
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Hermann Oberth
(1894-1989) Rocket Scientist and pioneer of space flight

Professor Hermann Oberth

Bust of Hermann Oberth at the Sighisoara Museum which has a gallery devoted to him.

Hermann Julius Oberth was born 25 June 1894 in Sibiu (called Hermannstadt by the Germans), Transylvania. He was a 'Saxon Romanian' of German descent, as was Johnny Weissmuller, the actor. There are very few 'Saxon Romanians' left in Romania today, but at one time they were a sizeable minority in Transylvania. Oberth died 28 December 1989, at Nuremberg in Germany.

Oberth was one of the three pioneers of rocketry and space flight who are responsible for bringing to birth the Space Age. The others were the Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsy and the American Robert Goddard. A crater on the Moon has been named after Oberth.

Exhibits from the Oberth gallery in the museum, showing his rocket designs.

Museum cabinet of Oberth’s books and memorabilia.

Oberth collaborated with the German film director Fritz Lang to design the rockets for his famous film, "Woman in the Moon", released in 1929. (The film is available on DVD with English subtitles from King Video in the USA.)

The Foundation has acquired a rare copy of Oberth's classic first book "Die Rakete in den Planeten-Raeumen" ("Rockets in Interplanetary Space", also called "By Rocket into Planetary Space"), published in Munich and Berlin in 1923, which we will be making available in its entirety as a free pdf download on this website, to facilitate research into the history of space flight and rocketry. This epochal book was originally his doctoral thesis of 1922, but it was rejected by his examiners. Out of desperation, Oberth had it privately published, so that his information could not be suppressed by the stupidity of conventional thinkers. A year after his thesis had been rejected at his earlier university, Oberth managed as a result of the published book to obtain a Ph.D. in Physics at Cluj University in Romania, on 23 May 1923.

Bust of Oberth in the town centre of Sighisoara, where he is a celebrated figure.

Oberth’s bust with the Romanian flag overlooked by the mediaeval clock-tower
of the citadel.

In 1912, Oberth had gone to Munich to study medicine, but he became embroiled in the First World War and returned to Sighisoara in Romania, where he commenced his first experiments with rockets. He married Mathilde Hummel 6 July 1918, and had four children, two of whom died young.

Romania has a unique position in the history of rocketry and space science, because it was not only the birthplace of Oberth, but it was the country where he was able to get his doctoral degree after an initial rejection, and where he launched his first rockets.

Werner von Braun was one of Oberth's students at the Technical University of Berlin, in 1929. Oberth did not leave his home at Sibiu in Romania for good until 1938. He then moved to Vienna, then Dresden, and then he worked with von Braun at Peenemuende on developing the V-2 rocket. In 1948 he moved to Switzerland, then in 1950 to Italy, where he worked for the Italian Navy. Finally, Oberth ended up in America at Huntsville, Alabamba, working with von Braun for the American Government. He worked on developing the Atlas Rocket. The first Atlas-1 Rocket was launched 29 July 1960, carrying a Mercury spacecraft, so that the Atlas is generally known as the Mercury-Atlas. The last Mercury-Atlas 2 was launched as recently as 2004. Later generations of Atlas continue to be used for space launches today.

Main street in Sighisoara named after Hermann Oberth.

Oberth was a visionary, and he was one of the first advocates of generating electricity by wind power, but in his case he wanted to harness not just any old wind, but the Jet Stream. (That was in 1973.) As early as 1958, Oberth published his theories of lunar exploration, including a design for a lunar catapult. He also worked on muffling the sounds of aircraft and helicopter engines at that time. Oberth believed in extraterrestrial contact with Earth, and wanted to build space stations so that mankind could get out into space and not be restricted to the surface of the planet. He was fascinated by the UFO phenomenon, and believed that UFOs were extraterrestrial. Oberth was perhaps the boldest and most original thinker ever to come out of Romania, and he was certainly one of the greatest visionaries in the world during the 20th century.