Herman Potočnik Biography

Herman Potočnik was a Slovenian rocket engineer who is most remembered for his outstanding contribution in the field of space travel.

Quick Facts

Birthday: December 22, 1892

Nationality: Croatian

Famous: Electrical Engineers Croatian Men

Died At Age: 36

Sun Sign: Sagittarius

Also Known As: Herman Potocnik, Hermann Noordung

Born in: Pula

Famous as: Engineer


father: Jožef Potočnik

mother: Minka Potočnik

siblings: Adolf Potočnik, Franci Potočnik, Gustav Potočnik

Died on: August 27, 1929

place of death: Vienna

Notable Alumni: University Of Technology

More Facts

education: Vienna University of Technology

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Herman Potočnik was a Slovenian rocket engineer who is most remembered for his outstanding contribution in the field of space travel. Born to Slovene parents in Pula, he was one of the five children in his family. His father served as a naval officer and doctor for the Austrian army but passed away when Herman was just two years old. His mother moved the family to Maribor where he received his primary education and later went on to attend military schools. Characterized as determined, confident, serious and aspiring, he served in a railway corps as a first lieutenant during the First World War. After retiring from the army due to illness, he completed his engineering and electro-technical studies in Vienna with specialization in rocket technology. Thereafter, he conducted extensive research on the rocket science and space technology, later sharing his knowledge and futuristic vision in his sole literary work which he wrote on his death bed. His book presented the first strategic plan for the human exploration of space with revolutionary ideas of the geo-stationary satellite and the manned space station. His innovative techniques, ideas, and many predictions enjoy increasing confirmation with each new extra-terrestrial accomplishment in the modern era. A visionary with an extraordinary technological imagination, Herman Potocnik is remembered today as a pioneer of astronautics

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Childhood & Early Life
  • During the First World War, while stationed at Galicia, Serbia and Bosnia, Herman Potočnik worked as an expert for bridge and railway constructions.
  • In 1915, he was elevated to the rank of First Lieutenant and was commissioned to the southwestern front of the Soča battlefield.
  • In 1919, after contracting incurable tuberculosis of lungs during the war, he retired from Austrian military with the rank of Captain.
  • Then, he attended the University of Technology in Vienna and completed studies in machinery and electric technology, graduating as an engineer in 1925. After obtaining PhD in engineering, he focused on rocket science and completely immersed himself in the research of space technology.
  • In 1929, Herman Potočnik published a book titled ‘The Problem of Space Travel’ under the pseudonym Noordung. The book was way ahead of its time and presented numerous solutions that would enable humans to live in outer space. It considered space travel not as mere day-dreaming but as a very real technological possibility.
Major Works
  • His 1929 book, Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor), made a significant contribution to rocket technology. The book devised a plan for the establishment of a permanent human presence in the space. It conceived a detailed design for a space station and described how the special conditions of space could be useful for scientific experiments. He was the first man to recognize the significance of the geostationary orbit, on which the station would orbit the Earth, and also made first detailed calculations of this orbit.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Due to his chronic illness, Herman Potočnik decided to remain a bachelor and lived with his brother, Adolf, in Vienna.
  • While living on the verge of poverty, his illness progressed quickly. He wrote his sole book literally on his death bed.
  • Herman Potočnik died of pneumonia on August 27, 1929, at the age of 36, in Vienna, Austria, and was buried there.
  • Asteroid 19612 Noordung, discovered in 1999 at the Črni Vrh Observatory, is named in his honor.
  • In 2006, the Herman Potočnik Noordung Memorial Centre (HPNMC) was built in Vitanje, Slovenia.

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Herman Potočnik

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