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Press Release 97-54

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1726)

Lori J. Rachul
NASA Lewis Research Center
(Bus: 216/433-8806)


CLEVELAND, OH-- Abe Silverstein, a leading figure in 20th century aerospace engineering and a former NASA center director, was presented today the prestigious Guggenheim Medal by representatives from the Guggenheim Medal Fund and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The medal, established in 1927, honors those who have made significant contributions to the advancement of flight. Silverstein joins the distinguished company of previous winners that include Orville Wright, William Boeing, Donald Douglas, James Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, James McDonnell, Jr. and Clarence "Kelly" Johnson.

Silverstein was selected to receive the award by representatives from the U.S., Canada and six European countries. Silverstein's citation praises 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."

"Lewis is an outstanding center because of the contributions made by many dedicated researchers and leaders who have gone before us. Dr. Silverstein stands head and shoulders above all others in terms of contributions in the areas of aeronautics and space. It is for this reason that he is richly deserving of the award," NASA Lewis Director Donald Campbell said.

Silverstein began his career at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' (NACA) Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, in 1929. There, he helped design and was in charge of the full-scale wind tunnel. He directed significant aerodynamic research that led to higher-speed performance for most of the United States' World War II combat aircraft.

In 1943, Silverstein was transferred to the NACA laboratory in Cleveland where he directed research in the historic Altitude Wind Tunnel that was later named for him. This work led to outstanding improvements in both reciprocating and early turbojet aircraft engines such as the development of supersonic jet afterburners. He also pioneered research on large-scale ramjet engines.

After World War II, Silverstein was instrumental in the development of U.S. supersonic propulsion wind tunnels that supported work on developed supersonic aircraft. In 1958, he moved to NACA Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he helped create and subsequently directed the efforts leading to the Mercury space flights and established the technical basis for the Apollo program to send U.S. astronauts to the Moon. He also is credited for proposing the name "Apollo" for the lunar landing program.

He returned to Cleveland to become Director of NASA's Lewis Research Center from 1961-1969. Silverstein oversaw expansion of the center and was a driving force behind creation of the Centaur launch vehicle.

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