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Showing posts from July, 2005

Strange Angel – George Pendle *****

This is a case of truth being stranger than fiction in all it’s glory – you really couldn’t make this one up. John Whiteside Parsons (his real first name was Marvel, but you can understand why he was called John or Jack from an early age) was that most euphemistic of people, a genuine rocket scientist. Yet it’s hard to imagine anyone further from the typical idea of the role – and George Pendle does a superb job of painting a picture of the very strange and confused life of this man. In one sense it’s a typical American story of the triumph of individual ability over lack of formal academic training. Despite dropping out of his college degree very early on, Parsons went on to become a recognized expert in explosives, to inspire a team at Caltech to built experimental rockets, and to devise single handed the first usable solid fuel for rockets. Along the way, you’ll discover why the US experimental rocket facility is confusingly called the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But that’s only th…