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

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  70 reviews
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 - a legacy buried deep under a lifetime of secrets political, technological, and personal. Blending a fascin ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Prometheus Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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I really enjoyed this book. It gave great insight (admittedly, sometimes necessarily creatively embellished) about not only a woman working in the male-dominated world of engineering in the 1950's, but it was also: an eye-opening account of the U.S. at the beginning of the Cold War and the nascent space race; a great reminder of just how much our technology has changed since then, and, by default, how society has changed with the technological advances; AND it was also a moving story about a wom ...more
I'm very glad this book was written. Mary Sherman Morgan's story is very inspiring.
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It starts out a bit slow, but this book builds up fire and power just like the slow heavy liftoff of the rockets featured within. I'm iffy about "creative" nonfiction that attempts to relate a necessarily embroidered view of real historical events, and this author is unabashed about the task he chose to tackle: to describe the life and achievements of a woman otherwise lost to history. That is, he had little to no primary sources for anything about her. The fact that this woman was his mother cr ...more
This is by far the most extraordinary biography of a scientist/engineer I have ever read.

Mary Sherman Morgan overcame countless obstacles–including poverty, ignorance, physical and emotional abuse, sexism, war, unemployment, exploitation, and government bureaucracy–to become the lynch pin of America's fledgling space program in the 1950's. And after ensuring that her company was firmly established and that the rockets were well on their way to outer space, she purposely retired to intentional ob
Mary Sherman Morgan's story is empowering and interesting. I'd love to learn more about her. But, this book is proof that you probably shouldn't pen your mother's biography, insert yourself into the narrative, or make so much of it about you. I tried to overlook all of the times George Morgan's narrative veered to himself and present day, jarring me from the real story. I was even willing to overlook the choppiness of the writing and the comma splices. Until page 278...

"...Like throwing a baby s
As children, we all think we know everything that matters about our parents. George Morgan and his sisters knew almost nothing about their mother: her family, her childhood, what she did before them were all closed for discussion. Most of the adults they knew worked at Rocketdyne with her and their father, so their work was secret. They picked up bits and pieces from adult conversation, as children do, but they had no idea that she invented the rocket fuel that powered America's first satellite ...more
An insightful and intriguing account of the early space race, beginning with the pre-WWII work of Werner Von Braun and culminating with the successful launch into orbit of Explorer I atop a modified Redstone ICBM.

Mary Morgan, a runaway from a spartan life in rural North Dakota and the lone woman in a field of engineers within North American Aviation, develops the fuel cocktail that enables the Redstone to reach orbit.

Her gift for mathematics and chemistry is offset by her penchant for avoiding t
This is a story that was nearly lost to history, making me wonder how many other stories we may never know about. Mary Sherman Morgan invented the fuel that enabled the first American rockets to launch. Her story was nearly lost due to poor or nonexistent historical records in the space industry, but her son realized this at her death and began to research who his mother really had been. He is an excellent writer, presenting artfully the amazing twists and turns of fate in the lives of American, ...more
Firstly, please accept my apology for the lack of HTML, but it is late and I'm doing this on my iphone. I heard of this biography of a woman lost to history who was the critical developer of the fuel that finally got our first rocket launched into space. The idea intrigued me and brought to mind older iterations of this phenomenon, e.g. "Anonymous was a woman" or Virginia Woolf opining that if Shakespeare had a sister, she would be found dead at the crossroads. So ROCKET GIRL: THE STORY OF MARY ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Interesting weaving of the stories of Werner Von Braun, the Soviet space race, Mary Sherman Morgan's life, and more-or-less the present for the author (who is Mary Sherman Morgan's son).

I'm not 100% how much I got to know Mary through the book, but I did get an appreciation for her work and a part of the Soviet-US space race I didn't know about before.
I saw this book at the bookstore and was intrigued, but something about it made me hesitate, and I decided to check it out from the library instead. While I did enjoy this book, I think I'm pretty happy with this decision.

Mary Sherman Morgan's story was fascinating. Born to poor, abusive parents on an isolated farm in North Dakota, who had to be compelled by the state to send her to school. After graduation, she runs away from home to attend college to study chemistry. After a few years, she is
Reads Like a YA Novel

In the author’s note at the end of the book, George Morgan tells readers that this is “creative nonfiction,” written to bring out what little information he had in a readable style. It IS readable, in a YA-novel way. For example, the author uses lots of adjectives, and he must feel that that a page without a simile is like a day without sunshine. I liked his first one: “Cutting the grassy plain in two, like a finger run through fresh paint, was a road.” Others sound forced:
Peter Mcloughlin
Women in science have fewer barriers to entry than in the past. The easier time women have today is in part thanks to pioneers like Mary Sherman Morgan. Morgan was an early pioneer in rocket science in the 1950s. She developed the fuel that got the Redstone rocket engines into low earth orbit and allowed America's first satellites aboard Jupiter rockets. She was keep out of school for three years as a child because her father wanted her to do chores on his North Dakota farm. When she finally got ...more
Although this was an incredibly interesting topic, I found the way in which this book was written to be very jarring. The author frequently mentions how difficult it was to find out about his mother's life and the part she played in the space program, so to read scenes and chapters where he writes whole dialogues and goes through what's going on in her mind was very disconcerting. I understand that he was trying to make the story more interesting by imagining scenes from her life, but it bothere ...more
Ruth Fichter
George, you have written a wonderful book! For those who want to know MORE about Mary (I'm referring to several reviews I have read), I can only say, the trouble with THAT is/was Mary herself. Her reticence was what made this such a difficult book to research and write in the first place. Some people may find it hard to believe, but MANY parents never talked much to their children back in the day, and Mary was an extreme example of this. Also, government agencies, some businesses, and MANY famil ...more
Nov 22, 2014 Stormy marked it as to-read
Jul 2015 AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation by C.Springs, Pauletta Tervern.Her writeup: 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 imagi ...more
Nancy Kennedy
When George Morgan's mother died, he wrote an obituary for the LA Times. But they refused to run it. Why? Because his claims that his mother played an important role in the field of rocket science could not be substantiated.

Mr. Morgan went on to rectify that. Little was known and even less written about Mary Sherman Morgan's work, first in the ordnance field during World War II and then with rocket fuels as America scrambled to get a satellite aloft. He researched his mother's life through the l
George D. Morgan is a boy grown to manhood and bent on finding his mother. He grew up in southern California, the “latch-key child of a stay at home mom.” It takes this child of two rocket scientists nearly a decade’s worth of research and delicate probing to trace his mother’s journey from her birth into a hardscrabble life in “a far corner of North Dakota,” to the young math genius who “single-handedly saved America’s space program,” then mysteriously evolved into the nearly catatonic mother w ...more
Lester Cockram
Found Rocket Girl on the new book shelf at the local library. Once I started the book I did not put it down other than taking a few hours off to sleep. I was 8 years old when Sputnik was launched and it was a joy reading what all went on behind the scenes during the competitive space race times. The cocktail chemistry was just right for all readers and must say that Mary Morgan Sherman was one most interesting, determined, and sharp rocket scientist.
While this book definitely tells the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, it felt somewhat disconnected and much of the text was spent on the context of her story and not always in a way that felt pertinent. I suspect that the play written by the author would be well worth watching, as it sounds more focused and I agree with the author - Mary's story is one that needs to be told! Still, the book was full of interesting antecedents surrounding the development of the first satellite launches and some of ...more
Jenny Clark
Very inspirational. Ib enjoyed the fact that the author told his own story as well as his mothers. The journey to find all the information is woven in very well. I also enjoyed the fact that the storys of Korolev and von Braun are added in. It is amazing that Mary was able to keep her job despite the fact that she never finished college.
This was a wonderful and educational book on America's first female rocket scientist. Written by her son, George, after Mary's passing. At Mary's passing the family tried to get her obituary published in a sizeable newspaper, but was turned down because there was no proof of Mary's tie to the first American rocket to reach orbit. This led to a search for who his mother was and why the world didn't know of her accomplishments.

The story skillfully weaves together the story of young Mary, enginner
Although creative non-fiction isn't my favorite genre, I couldn't put this book down. Part of it was the local element--Mary Sherman grew up in Ray, ND, but I was fascinated how the girl from ND, without any kind of degree beyond high school, went on to achieve greatness in our country's early rocket/space program.
Fascinating creative nonfiction about the start of the space program and the unknown woman who developed the fuel that made it happen. Even if I don't know what a non-synchronous differential equation is, nor do I particularly care to know, this accessible book definitely kept my interest.
Unit of Raine
I found the jumping around between the author's quest, Mary's childhood, von Braun POV, and Korolov POV unnecessary, but then I might be a little biased. I wanted to learn about Mary and her experiences and process. Which, I admit, is selfish and wouldn't have made a good book.

I loved the chapter about her top ten list of characteristics, the trade studies, the investigation. And the chapter and a half or so set at The Hill is like pretty much every test lab experience I've ever had. I can now
I enjoyed this. Good biography. I had seen the premier of the play at Caltech. The book adds some details, but the author's initial instinct was the play. The book is good, I liked the play better.
Think of this as two memoirs in one. Part of it is about the author's struggle to understand his mother and find information about her, the other part is about the woman herself. Focusing on her, it is amazing the things she faced and overcame. She was not the kind of woman to stand up and yell about equal treatment, but instead came to the table with her credentials and her work ethic and showed what she was capable of. We like to teach young girls about Rosie the Riveter, but Mary was more tha ...more
Joyb Boggio
Very interesting to read about the space race and the woman without whom the US may not have been at the fire front.
Zach Reed
If you read this expecting a biography, I'm sorry to say you'll be disappointed. However, the author's claim on the cover is correct - the is the story of the world's first female rocket scientist. The majority of the book is inspired by the real events, and some creative liberty is taken for the sake of drama.

That said, this was a great book, and a great insight in the early days of the space race. As stated in the foreword, Mary entered into a male-dominated work force without specifically try
...her son, George D. Morgan started digging for the truth after the Los Angeles Times wouldn't post his mother's obituary because they couldn't confirm the information given to them about her. He worked tirelessly to collect as much information as he could through family members, his mother's close work associates, records from schools, jobs, even NASA - anyone and anywhere that could provide him with nuggets of information to put together his mother's incredible story.

He first wrote it as a pl
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A good read 1 7 Jul 19, 2013 08:58AM  
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