Canadian university head proposed rocket spaceflight in 1861

October 5, 2015
This is the "South Pillar" region of the star-forming region called the Carina Nebula. Like cracking open a watermelon and finding its seeds, the infrared telescope "busted open" this murky cloud to reveal star embryos tucked inside finger-like pillars of thick dust. Credit: NASA

Rocket-based spaceflight was proposed 30 years earlier than previously thought by a Canadian university head, a space historian says.

Historian Robert Godwin says William Leitch of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, accurately described the concept of reaching space by in 1861.

Previous histories of spaceflight credited Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and American Robert Goddard with the first scientific proposals of rocket-powered space travel in the late 1800s.

Both claimed science-fiction author Jules Verne as their inspiration. Godwin says Leitch published his thoughts four years before Verne's famous "space gun" in "From the Earth to the Moon."

Godwin's findings were published Sunday in "The First Scientific Concept of Rockets for Space Travel."

Godwin says Leitch was a scientist who predicted that a rocket would work most efficiently 's vacuum.

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9 comments

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dirk_bruere
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2015
Aren't you forgetting the Darwin Engine?

https://en.wikipe...t_engine
nilbud
1 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2015
In that case when Wan Hu strapped a load of fireworks to a chair four thousand years ago he was first.
danR
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2015
Aren't you forgetting the Darwin Engine?

The evidence for that disappears down a Wikipedia, and its talk page, rat hole. Links not working. 'sketch' not found. Nothing.
danR
5 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2015
In that case when Wan Hu strapped a load of fireworks to a chair four thousand years ago he was first.


What Leitch describes is conceptually linked to space-flight proper. In ancient times nobody knew that space was a vacuum and that no other method of continuous propulsion in it than some kind of reaction system (rocket, solar sail, Bussard ramjet, etc.) would work.
danR
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2015
The Darwin's Engine claim is one of those sorts of reasons that occasionally buttresses the academic derogation of Wikipedia as a source.
nilbud
1 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2015
Fireworks and a chair is rocketry.
AGreatWhopper
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2015
I know a lot of the tinfoil brigade will say this is an example of a far-out idea that turned out to be prescient and will compare their spew with it. If so, they still miss the point. In the '60s Quasar's slogan was, "Just slightly ahead of our time". It took me years to appreciate that the important word in that was "slightly". It's not simply tyranny of the majority, it's that science moves forward with collegiality and consensus. It's not that every left field idea is wrong, it's that even if it's correct, it's useless. When consensus is based on fact and replication and peer review it's a very good way to stay on course over the long run. Sure, one loony might accidentally say something that turns out to be correct, but science would loose so much if it abandoned its methods simply to get a transient leg up on some issue.

It's not just that you're wrong, trolls, it's that even if you're right, it's useless. Capiche?
NiteSkyGerl
4 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2015
That is the best statement on alternative science that I have ever read. Gonna save that one.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2015
... Wan Hu strapped a load of fireworks to a chair four thousand years ago he was first.
...
Fireworks and a chair is rocketry.


Yes, but:
The Wan Hu story was probably created AFTER Leitch and Goddard and Tsiolkovsky since the oldest documented references to it are from the early 1900s, and the purported 2000 BCE date is about 3000 years BEFORE the first records of gun-powder-based rockets...

Also the Wan Hu story is NOT an accurate description of rocket-based space flight.

From the article:
William Leitch ... accurately described the concept of reaching space by rocket in 1861.
Previous histories of spaceflight credited ... Tsiolkovsky and ... Goddard with the first scientific proposals of rocket-powered space travel ...

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