Mary Morgan Sherman: invented hydyne in 1957, the rocket propellant that launched America's first satellite (in response to Sputnik); "retired" from work c. 1958; born 1921, "retired" 1958 at about age 37; one child at home; pregnant, and eventually four children (two boys, two girls) in that family (one much earlier in life given up for adoption)
Born / raised on a farm near Ray, North Dakota; November 4, 1921 -- three months older than my own dad. Father Michael. Three daughters: Mary, Elaine (youngest), Amy; three brothers: Michael, Vernon, Clarence (confirmed p. 243)
Started school two to three years late; rode horse she named Star to school; given to her by child protective services so she could get to school; emotionally (maybe physically) abused by three brothers, alcoholic father; one sister, Elaine
Valedictorian of Ray High School
Very, very strong in math, chemistry
The Great Escape: ran away from home, after high school; caught bus at Rachel's Diner in Ray; Rachel's Diner had Williams County's first neon sign
Bussed to Toledo, Ohio; DeSales College; first two years; never graduated
Recruited in sophomore year to work at Plum Brook Ordnance Works, the largest supplier of explosives for the US military during WWII; this book has a nice history of Plum Brook Ordnance Works
Mentions how she learned to play bridge; off the radio, 1943; American bridge export Alfred Sheinwold
Gives up newborn in 1944; travels to St Vincent's Hospital in Philadelphia;
War ends; work ends at PBOW
First mentions his mother playing bridge, page 131;
Takes bus to Los Angeles; finds her way to North American Aviation, Downey.
Irving Kanareck story begins on page 134; parents born in USSR; on job application he says parents born in USSR; clerk reviewing application for accuracy has never seen "USSR" before, changes it to USA;
Tom Meyers at NAA sees her application; he is human resources for theoretical performance specialist (TPS), someone who is strong in both chemistry and math; preferably college graduate;
Project Paperclip mentioned on page 149.
Accepted for position as "analyst" at NAA, at the Inglewood facility. "Analyst" = engineer without a college degree; lower pay than an engineer. Reported for work, July 15, 1947. Age: 26 years old.
First woman to be hired on the "engineering floor."
Meets Carl Amenhoff -- a TPS, just like Mary. Hired by Tom Meyers; her boss. Sees copy of one of Alfred Sheinwold's books on bridge; asks if she can play with the other engineers
Introduces his dad, page 162, 1950: George Richard "Red" Morgan. Caltech graduate (Pasadena). Author would be born three years later.
Working on "viable fuel and oxidizer compounds." By the end of 1950, almost all of the "viable fuel and oxidizer compounds had been theoretically calculated; many of them had been synthesized." All with pluses and minuses: hydrazine is an excellent fuel, and unlike LOX is liquid at room temperature, but highly explosive.
"Cocktail": mixture of two or more rocket propellants. The idea had been invented by the Germans.
On the day Richard Morgan began working for NAA, Mary was working on cocktail of oxygen and fluorine. Fluorine was nothing less than the best oxidizer in the universe; unfortunately it reacted with everything, page 164. She called the mixture FLOX.
Met by chance; relationship cemented over bridge; married six months later, July 29, 1951.
Page 172 on: Redstone propellant -- lifting power -- 93.10% -- would not reach orbit. Needed a better propellant. Huntsville, AL.
Specific impulse: measured in seconds, specific impulse is a sort-of horsepower rating for rocket propellants; the high the number, the greater the power. every fuel and oxidizer propellant combination had its own specific impulse value; calculated theoretically, then adjusted downward a few points; reality always trumped theory (great bridge analogy).
284: specific impulse for the Redstone rocket's current fuel/oxidizer propellant combination of alcohol and liquid oxygen. Same propellant used by von Braun for V-2. Best number one could get from LOX/alcohol mixture.
305: the minimum specific impulse value the Redstone propellant system need to push a satellite into orbit.
Huntsville Redstone team knew of NAA in California; sent team out to NAA to contract for better propellant.
Tom Meyers receives phone call: most important phone call he had ever received.
Tom Meyers (NAA) met Colonel Wilkins, Huntsville/Redstone -- new engine design
Mary: still the only woman among all the engineers
White Sands -- Huntsville -- Fort Bliss: "all the same" -- p. 178
Colonel Wilkens noticed that Irving Kanarek worked at NAA: he was the inventor of inhibited red fuming nitric acid -- a propellant that was being successfully used with the Nike program.
Colonel Wilkens wanted Irving Kanarek.
Tom Meyers said he had someone better than Kanarek: Mary Sherman.
Nick Toby, Lansing Chemical Company, cold call; meets Mary. Toby has a promising new chemical, diethylenetriamine -- looking for applications: di-ethylene tri-amine.
Tom Meyers asks Mary if she wants the Redstone project -- p. 187
Wikipedia: the name "Jack Silverman" pops up as the inventor of hydyne.
Author notes that the name Jack Silverman had come up only once in eight years of author's research. A September, 1955, paper, nothing to do with hydyne, authors listed as: M. S. Morgan, J. Silverman, and W. T. Webber. Author's copy had been in his archives for ten years.
Author met with W. T. Webber who said Silveman was a credit-grabber; he was Mary's supervisor; stole credit for others ideas/accomplishments
Author asks W. T. ("Bill") Webber to put his version in writing, swear to it, sign it.
Author obtains book from NASA on history of Rocketdyne. Author Robert S. Kraemer gives credit to Irving Kanarek for inventing hydyne (p. 44) of that book. Kraemer gives the formula for hydyne as "75% dimethylhydrazine, 25% diethylenetriamine." The author says that mixture is obviously wrong; every hydyne source available lists it as 60/40, not 75/25. Also, author has on video, in-person, in-depth interviews with Irving Kanarek in which he acknowledges that hydyne was the brainchild of his mother.
It turns out Kanarek was Mary's immediate supervisor and even had his desk adjacent to hers. Kraemer may not be completely accurate but at least he refutes jack Silverman's claim.
Mary's Redstone project appeared to be a set-up to make her fail. Engines/propellants designed together; Mary was to come up with propellant to work in existing engine.
Supervisor Kanarek and Tom Meyers both suggested she start with the oxidizer. Quick review: nothing would work. So she quietly turned her attention to the fuel side and did not tell anyone.
Chemical fact: handful of oxidizers; hundreds of fuels.
Her list of ten (10) properties and characteristics -- p. 192.
Tom hires two engineers to help Mary -- p. 196.
- Bill Webber: masters degree, chemical engineering, Caltech (Pasadena)
- Toru Shimizu: masters degree, chemical engineering, UCLA; four years in Japanese internment camp, Manzanar, northwest of Los Angeles
- alcohol with fluorine; Redstone alcohol-compliant; but oxidizer side of system won't tolerate even a slight amount of fluorine -- no
- fluorine and derivatives like FLOX -- no
- hydrazine -- no
- monomethyl hydrazine -- no
- aniline with ozone; good isp but ozone too unstable -- no
- propane with LOX -- no
- JP-4 with LOX -- wrong mixture ratio -- no
- all kerosene pairs -- wrong mixture ratio -- no, no, no
- hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, my God, how did you even know about that? mixed with fluorien -- already a no; matched with nitrous oxide -- isp too low -- no
- ethylene with LOX, not bad -- hold on to that one
- ammonia with LOX -- no
- B2H6 with hydrazine as an oxidizer? Innovative, but hydrazine is out on both sides -- no
- aniline with RFNA -- no
- hydrogen ... hydrogen!? what have you two been drinking -- no
- methane with LOX -- maybe
- lithium with fluorine!? my god you boys are dangerous
- RP-1 with nitrous oxide -- no
- turpentine with nitric acid -- no
- nitrogen tetroxide and pentaborane with LOX -- no, and no
Hydrazine: fuel used as a coolant; hydrazine is a poor coolant, p. 201
Chalkboard at Mary's desk: 305 1.75 155 0.8580
- 305: specific impulse
- 1.75: ratio, 1.75 pounds of oxidizer to every pound of fuel
- 155: seconds of burn time
- 0.8580: density
Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, Bill's idea, p. 207; ISP of 315; invented by the Soviets
UDMH: density only 0.7914 -- way off, but Redstone says it might work
UDMH: won't work, p. 209
The boys come with the idea of a cocktail; adding another fuel with higher density that would reach mixture / cocktail density of 0.8580
Mary remembered the density but nothing else; needed to find the business card.
Nick Toby at Lansing Chemical, diethylenetriamine (di-ethylene triamine) -- DETA; Mary ordered four. Four pounds? No, four tons. -- p. 216
Ratio: 60% UDMH / 40% DETA
Santa Susanna (sic) at top of page, 221
Simi Valley: location of first successful oil well in California
1947: forty miles southeast of Simi Valley, in LA suburb of Downey, Dutch Kindelberger built a company, called in North American Aviation; major supplier of fighters and bombers during WWII.
NAA: built Santa Susana (sic) Field Laboratory (p. 224) in Simi Valley; thought it was far from civilization; then the San Fernando Valley happened; named after Mission San Fernando Ray de Espana
January 5, 1955: first test
First three tests failed
Flashback: October 6, 1957 -- Sputnik 1 launched
Flashback: the story of James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger, born in Wheeling, West Virginia, May 8, 1895
The story of Tom Meyers facing of Kindelberger in his support for Mary -- pp. 259 - 261 -- "Mary Sherman is not just the best in the company, she's probably the best in the world." -- p. 261
310 at 1.75 and 0.8615 for 155
I can't find the date of the successful test; was it in 1957?
Remember, the first test was January 5, 1955
Chapter 24: The Law of Unintended Consequences
Discovers his older sister, Ruth E. Fichter, Detroit, the one given up for adoption in 1944.
Ruth flies out to Southern California; she had never seen the Pacific Ocean before. Sees the Getty Museum, the Griffith Observatory.
January 31, 1958 -- first US satellite launched; Explorer 1
Wernher von Braun's reaction to the launch, p. 278:
"In his room that evening, he fired off a letter to North American Aviation. america's first satellite had only been possible due to the invention of hydyne. Without it, the US would have continued to trail the Russians for months, if not years. The only thing he knew about its creation was that a woman at North American Aviation had cooked it up. It was a curious cocktail of two little-used chemicals, and it had done its job perfectly. He did not know her name, but he wanted to thank her. Von Braun took out pen and stationery and wrote, Dear Unknown Lady. People, like satellites go nameless.
Mary died in 2004.
Chapter 26: Wings of the Condor
Mary cleans out her desk; less than one full cardboard box. Included a congratulatory letter from Wernher von Braun.
Apparently she decided to quit on her own; she had one child at home; pregnant with another. Wanted to raise a family.
Spelled Santa Susana Pass Road -- p. 286
On her last day at work, she was invited out to Santa Susana Field Laboratory to do the calculations; saw a California condor;
Santa Susanna (sic) in the author's note, p. 296.
It appears Mary had five children:
- Ruth (Fichter)
- George (Morgan)
- Stephen (Morgan)
- Monica (Weber)
- Karen (Newe)
Wiki spells "Susana" with one "n."
The Catholic saint is spelled with two "n's."