Inventors are inspirational. Mary Sherman Morgan was an inventor and rocket fuel scientist. She invented the liquid fuel Hydyne. This propellant was used in the Jupiter C rocket to launch America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit in 1958.
Mary Sherman was born on November 4, 1921 in Ray, North Dakota. She had five siblings. The family lived on a farm. In 1939, she graduated high school as the class valedictorian. She went on to attend Minot State University as a chemistry major. Due to World War II and many men going overseas, there was a shortage of chemists and other scientists. A job recruiter offered Mary a job at a factory in Sandusky, Ohio. All she was told about the job was that she would have to obtain ‘top secret’ security clearance. She decided to leave school, move, and take the job. The job was at the Plum Brook Ordnance Works munitions factory. The site manufactured explosives and produced more than a billion pounds of ordnance for the war.
Mary had a daughter out of wedlock in 1944. At the time, she was living with her cousin in Huron, Ohio. Her cousin, Mary, and her husband, Irving, adopted the baby and named her Ruth Esther.
After the war, Mary Sherman applied for a job at North American Aviation. She was employed in their Rocketdyne Division in Canoga Park, California. She became a Theoretical Performance Specialist. There she met her future husband, George Richard Morgan. During their marriage they had four children.
Mary was named technical lead of a group contracted to come up with a more powerful fuel for the Jupiter C. The work resulted in the propellant Hydyne. A Hydyne-powered flight took place in 1956 and Hydyne powered three Jupiter C nose cone test flights. The propellant then launched Explorer I on January 31, 1958. Despite this monumental achievement, little else was known about her life until her death.
Mary Sherman Morgan died of emphysema in 2004. Her son, George Morgan, wrote a play based on her life. Rocket Girl was produced by Theatre Arts at California Institute of Technology and ran there in Pasadena, California in 2008. In 2013, BBC’s online News Magazine released a short video tribute to her. Be inspired! Have a bright day!