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This is the extraordinary true story of America’ s first female rocket scientist. Told by her son, it describes Mary Sherman Morgan’s crucial contribution to launching America’s first satellite and the author’s labyrinthine journey to uncover his mother’s lost legacy--one buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal.
In 1938, a young German rocket enthusiast named Wernher von Braun had dreams of building a rocket that could fly him to the moon. In Ray, North Dakota, a young farm girl named Mary Sherman was attending high school. In an age when girls rarely dreamed of a career in science, Mary wanted to be a chemist. A decade later the dreams of these two disparate individuals would coalesce in ways neither could have imagined.
World War II and the Cold War space race with the Russians changed the fates of both von Braun and Mary Sherman Morgan. When von Braun and other top engineers could not find a solution to the repeated failures that plagued the nascent US rocket program, North American Aviation, where Sherman Morgan then worked, was given the challenge. Recognizing her talent for chemistry, company management turned the assignment over to young Mary.
In the end, America succeeded in launching rockets into space, but only because of the joint efforts of the brilliant farm girl from North Dakota and the famous German scientist. While von Braun went on to become a high-profile figure in NASA’s manned space flight, Mary Sherman Morgan and her contributions fell into obscurity--until now.
“A dramatic, suspenseful tale.”–Scientific American
“Illuminates the exploits of an unsung heroine of the space age.” –Preston Lerner, author and journalist
“A beautiful story well told. Mary Sherman Morgan, a woman who toiled in obscurity and liked it that way, rises from a dirt-poor and abusive childhood to break the gender barrier in rocket engineering. She goes on to solve the last remaining problem keeping America from the stars. Mary’s contribution... would have forever vanished were it not for this book. An inspiration for women–and men–everywhere.”–Rod L. Pyle, Author of Destination Mars
“This portrait of a mother shrouded in mystery and largely forgotten by the field she pioneered is a compelling read.”–Publishers Weekly
“An intriguing biography.... The personal story and family detective work are truly gripping, and Mary, in all her contradictions, emerges as a fascinating subject.”–Booklist
“An accessible and enjoyable read.... [It reminds] us of the need to adequately record and credit the contributions of women scientists, like Morgan, to obtain the fullest account in our history-of-science collections. Recommended.”–Library Journal
“A sweeping yet intensely personal book.... [It] takes us from the windswept prairies of North Dakota, where Mary Sherman was born, to the equally windswept steppes of Kazakhstan from which Sergei Korolev would launch Sputnik..., putting the United States on a crash course to catch up. [The] race between Korolev and his American rival, ex-Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun is deftly interwoven with the daily lives of the unknown engineers [like Mary] who made it possible.” –Douglas L. Smith, legacy content producer, California Institute of Technology
“The book is highly readable and could be used in a variety of ways. Science teachers could use this book to help them teach about the nature of science by discussing how Mary Morgan was finally brought into the U.S. space program when it began to struggle as it could not devise a useful rocket propellant. They could also use Mary Morgan’s story to show the barriers that have existed at times in the past for women in science. All in all, this book could be a wonderful resource for any science teacher looking for a new opportunity to spur their students’ interest in the history of science and the challenges that women have faced in doing the work of science.” — NTSA Recommends