Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist

George D Morgan, Author
George Morgan. Prometheus, $18 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-61614-739-6
Reviewed on: 04/15/2013
Release date: 07/01/2013
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Playwright George Morgan (Second to Die) knew that his mother, Mary Sherman Morgan, had done important work as a rocket scientist for the U.S. during the Cold War, but it wasn’t until her funeral in 2004 that he began to understand the extent of her contributions. At the service, a man who had worked with Mary told George that she had “single-handedly saved America’s space program... and nobody knows it but a handful of old men.” In addition to being a very private person, Mary was further constrained by the top-secret status of her projects. She kept such a low profile that when famed German scientist Wernher von Braun wrote to her, he addressed the letter to a “Dear Unknown Lady.” In the early 1950s, Morgan—with only a high school diploma—was the sole female analyst among 900 rocket scientists at North American Aviation. If it weren’t for her invention of the propellant hydyne, America’s first satellite would’ve never made it off the ground. Based on a play of the same name that Morgan put on in 2008, this portrait of a mother shrouded in mystery and largely forgotten by the field she pioneered is a compelling read, though folks looking for a more objective biography might be put off by Morgan’s dramatic flourishes and the lack of critical distance between author and subject. Agent: Deborah Ritchken, the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (July)
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