Broadcast 2841 Rob Godwin

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Guest:  Rob Godwin; Topics:  Rob's new book, "William Leitch: Presbyterian Scientist & The Concept of Rocket Space Flight 1854-1864," early rocketry history, the church & science.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website,  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See

We welcomed Rob Godwin back to the show to discuss his new book, "William Leitch: Presbyterian Scientist & The Concept of Rocket Space Flight 1854-1864."  During the first segment of our 86 minute program, I asked Rob how he discovered the science work of William Leitch.  This was a fascinating story of random things happening and showing up for Rob, all of which led him to William Leitch and his science.  Rob then began the research to learn more, culminating in this excellent book. For a good part of the first segment, Rob told us this personal story so don't miss it.

Rob spent much time telling us about William Leitch and his work which was based on Newtonian principles, a first for its time.  He talked about his work first being published in a global magazine of the time, Good Words.  The first printing was very early in Sept. 1861 but because what he wrote was so popular for the day, several additional editions were printed.  His essay, "A Journey Through Space," is referenced several times in Rob's book.  The Leitch quote that propelled Rob's interest in the reverend and this story was:

"The only machine, independent of the atmosphere, we can conceive of, would be one on the principle of the rocket. The rocket rises in the air, not from the resistance offered by the atmosphere to its fiery stream, but from internal reaction. The velocity would, indeed, be greater in a vacuum than in the atmosphere, and could we dispense with the comfort of breathing air, we might, with such a machine, transcend the boundaries of our globe, and visit other orbs."  In summary, Leitch had proposed that the most efficient way to ever travel beyond Earth's atmosphere would be to use a rocket. 

One of the questions that came up was why Rev. Leitch and his work was not better known.  One explanation put forth by Rob was that Leitch died very young at 49.  This cut short his science work and publication ability so he was not as prolific as others of his time.  Despite his short life, he was a contemporary of many early thinkers regarding rockets and space including Jules Verne, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, Hermann Oberth and Hermann Gansindt among others.  Rob did a good job of summarizing the context and times for all of these people plus Leitch. Again, don't miss this discussion. 

In the second segment, listeners had several questions for Rob.  For example, Tiffany pointed out that the Chinese were using rockets long before the Europeans were talking about rockets in spaceflight.  She wanted to know if there was any history of Chinese rocketry for spaceflight in addition to warfare.  Rob had an interesting answer to Tiffany.  If you can add to his comments, please do on TSS blog. 

Lots of questions came in about the church and science.  Rob also talked about the many trips Leitch made to the US, specifically to Massachusetts to talk to the best telescope maker of the day, Alvin Clark.  Rob talked about one experience Leitch had regarding the American Civil War and then upon his return, the actions he took at his university where he had to close it given the possibility of the UK joining in our Civil War against the Union. 

Near the end of the program, I asked Rob about his next book which is a biography of Fred Ordway.  Rob also mentioned a sci-fi Canadian TV series for which he is the space historian, Deep Six.  The series will be available in the States but he did not know when that might be. 

Another topic discussed during our show which needs to be mentioned was Leitch and alien life.  This started to be a big topic around the time of Leitch, including lunar ET life and more.  Rob had much to say on this topic, the work of Leitch as well as others of the time in addressing the potential of alien or ET life.  Don't miss what was said about this topic as it weaved in and out of today's discussion.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog which is part of the archives for this program on The Space Show website. You can order this book through Amazon or the Apogee website,  You can reach Rob through me or the Apogee book website.




William Leitch- The concept of rocket space flight 1854-1864

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09 Jan 2017 Robert (Rob) Godwin
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