For Release: June 4, 2001
Lori J. Rachul
Media Relations Office
Dr. Abe Silverstein, a leading figure in 20th century aerospace engineering and director of NASA Lewis Research Center from 1961 to 1969, now the John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Cleveland, OH, died early today. He was 92.
Dr. Silverstein began his career with NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, in 1929. In 1943, he transferred to the NACA Laboratory in Cleveland, where he performed pioneering research on large-scale ramjet engines.
After World War II, Silverstein conceived, designed and constructed the first U.S. supersonic propulsion wind tunnel. The 10 foot by 10 foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel is still operational at Glenn, which supported the development of supersonic aircraft.
In 1958, Dr. Silverstein moved to NACA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he helped create and then directed efforts leading to the Mercury space flights. He later named and laid the groundwork for the Apollo missions that put the first man on the Moon.
"NASA has lost a true founding member. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Silverstein. He was a man of vision and conviction," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "His effective leadership, both at Headquarters and at Lewis, directly contributed to the ultimate success of America's unmanned and human space programs, and his innovative, pioneering spirit lives on in the work we do today."
When he returned to Cleveland to become Director of NASA Lewis, Dr. Silverstein was a driving force behind the creation of the Centaur launch vehicle, particularly the hydrogen-oxygen upper stage propulsion system. Dr. Silverstein demonstrated that liquid hydrogen was light, powerful and safe enough to use for rocket propulsion, thus getting the nation's space program off the ground.
In 1997, Silverstein received the prestigious Guggenheim Medal for his "technical contributions and visionary leadership in advancing technology of aircraft and propulsion performance, and foresight in establishing the Mercury and Gemini manned space flight activities."
"NASA Glenn is an outstanding Center because of Abe's leadership when NASA was a growing organization. He was an exceptionally talented engineer whose pioneering work paved the way to many successes," said Glenn Center Director Donald J. Campbell. "He was by far the cornerstone for many of the accomplishments at Glenn."
Additional information regarding the career of Dr. Silverstein is available on the Internet at:
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