Durant, Frederick C. III – Aerospace Engineer & Book Collector

Arthur C. Clarke, Against the Fall of Night

p4A ItemID D9764424
Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood's End

p4A ItemID D9764422
Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space.

p4A ItemID D9764409
Arthur C. Clarke, Sands of Mars

p4A ItemID D9764407

Frederick C. Durant III

Frederick C. Durant III was a key advisor to the U.S. military, intelligence, and civilian space-flight programs of the 1950s and 1960s. He served as president of the American Rocket Society in 1953 and president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) from 1953 to 1956. During the 1950s he worked for several different aerospace organizations, including: Bell Aircraft Corp., Everett Research Lab, the Naval Air Rocket Test Station, and the Maynard Ordnance Test Station. He later became assistant director of astronautics for the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., helping to launch the modern facility that millions of visitors tour each year. While at the Smithsonian, he was tapped to serve as the aerospace historian for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In the 1950s, he became one of the most respected independent advisors to the U.S. government on aerospace technology. He served on a Central Intelligence Agency panel in 1953 studying the possibility of extraterrestrial spacecraft as a potential threat to national security, co-authoring a report that concluded there was “no evidence that the phenomena indicate a need for the revision of current scientific concepts.” In 1954, he penned an article for Aviation Week magazine titled “Space Flight Needs Only Money, Time.” As president of the IAF, he told delegates at its 1954 convention in Innsbruck, Austria, “The feasibility of space flight is no longer a topic for academic debate but a matter of time, money, and a program.”

That same year, he was recruited to participate in the first civilian-oriented effort to put a satellite into orbit. Led by Wernher von Braun, the team developed a concept called Project Orbiter, which later served as the foundation of the successful Explorer I mission launched on 31 January 1958.

Durant was a long-time friend, confidant and supporter of Clarke’s. They corresponded and spoke by telephone frequently. The warmth of the friendship between Clarke and the Durant family is evident in the content of the inscriptions of these books. These books offer important associations between two dear friends, each a leader in his field.

Reference: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website.

Information courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries, March 2009.


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