Rocket Girl by George D Morgan

Rocket Girl by George D Morgan
The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist
Publisher: Prometheus
Genre: Historical Biographical Fiction
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

LIKE THE FEMALE SCIENTISTS PORTRAYED IN HIDDEN FIGURES, MARY SHERMAN MORGAN WAS ANOTHER UNSUNG HEROINE OF THE SPACE AGE-NOW HER STORY IS FINALLY TOLD.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.

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I’ve been on a kick to read as much as I can about the space program. I’m not sure why. I’m not going to become a rocket scientist (I can’t balance chemical equations) and I don’t like heights. That said, I do love reading about the women who helped create the space program and got it where it is today.

Mary Sherman Morgan is an interesting case. She did a lot to get herself to the point of working on the chemistry involved in rocketry. I liked Mary, despite the things she’d been through. Odd thing to say, don’t you think? If something bad could happen, it happened to Mary–a child born out of wedlock, having to get a job to pay her way through college, having to keep huge secrets because of her various jobs, then the unkindest cut of all: not getting credit for her work on the chemicals used to take rockets to space. No credit!

I have to say, though, this is her son’s retelling of her life. There is some creative license taken. He recalls conversations from when she was a child and going through school. He probably knew OF the conversations but I doubt he knew the exact wording as Mary was very hesitant to speak about her life. I guess that’s why I liked her so much. I had a grandfather who refused to talk about certain parts of his life and could be very particular when he did speak. He tended to keep to himself, like Mary and wanted things just so. Honestly, the author’s creative license with some of the incidents was what took away from the story. I wanted to know what Mary created and how she got to that point, but some of the side stories, while they helped know her better, seemed to be just that…side stories.

Still, this is an interesting book and it’s written with love. The author might have been a tad estranged from his mother at times, partially due to her choosing, but he loved her. Grab this book if you’re looking for something for a few afternoons and want to step into someone else’s life.

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