Wernher Von Braun

Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War

Michael J. Neufeld
Chair, Space History Division, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Note: Regina Dugan previously scheduled for this date had been rescheduled to January 21, 2011

2275th Meeting Abstract
Friday, November 19, 2010 at 8:15 PM

Michael J. Neufeld


Wernher von Braun is probably the most famous and controversial rocket engineer of all time. In his lecture, Michael Neufeld discusses von Braun's biography, both his outstanding accomplishments as an engineering manager and space visionary in Germany and the U.S., and the Faustian bargain he made with the Third Reich, which led him to become a party member, SS officer and decision-maker in the exploitation of concentration-camp labor. It was a bargain that haunted him even later in his charmed life, when aspects of his Nazi past began to resurface. Of those who remember him today, most would like to pigeonhole him simply as a villain or a hero. In fact, he is a fascinating and disturbing combination of both, and his career says much about the roles and temptations of engineers and scientists in the twentieth century.

About the Author:

Michael J. Neufeld is Chair of the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. He has four history degrees, including a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1984. Dr. Neufeld has written three books, The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg (1989), The Rocket and the Reich (1995), which won two book prizes, and Von Braun (2007), which has won three awards, and has edited three others. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, notably on the History Channel, C-SPAN, PBS and NPR, as well as the BBC, the German ZDF and other foreign outlets.

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