Rocket spaceflight first proposed 30 years earlier than previously thought, by a Canadian University Principal in 1861

BURLINGTON, ON, Oct. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - Space experts are excited by findings that rewrite the history books with the discovery that in 1861 the concept of rocket-based spaceflight was accurately described using scientific principles by William Leitch, Principal of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., Canada. The findings were published today in "The First Scientific Concept of Rockets for Space Travel" by space historian Robert Godwin.

For commentary from the former curator of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, the editor of the British Interplanetary Society's Spaceflight magazine, the History Chairman of the American Astronautical Society and retired Canadian astronaut Dave Williams read a more detailed announcement at

Previous histories of spaceflight maintained that the first scientific proposal of rocket-powered space travel came at the end of the 19th century by Russian Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and by American Robert Goddard. Both claimed Jules Verne as their inspiration, but Godwin says Leitch published his thoughts four years before Verne's famous "space gun". 

"The fact we know that Leitch was a scientist is the key to this story," said Godwin. "He understood Newton's law of action and reaction, and predicted that a rocket would work more efficiently in the vacuum of space; a fact that still caused Goddard to be ridiculed six decades later."

About Robert Godwin
Robert Godwin owns the Apogee Books imprint and is a member of the International Astronautical Federation History Committee. The Minor Planet Godwin 4252 is named after him for his contributions to space history. He is speaking at the North Bay Space Week conference on October 8th.

SOURCE Apogee Books

For further information: Hugh Black, HMB Communications Group, 416-898-4871,


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