BURLINGTON, Ont.—A space historian says a Canadian university principal proposed rocket-based spaceflight 30 years earlier than previously thought.
Historian Robert Godwin says William Leitch of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. accurately described the concept of rocket-based spaceflight in 1861.
Previous histories of spaceflight have maintained 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.”
Godwin’s findings were published yesterday in “The First Scientific Concept of Rockets for Space Travel.”
Godwin said Leitch was a scientist and understood Newton’s law of action and reaction, and predicted a rocket would work more efficiently in the vacuum of space.