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William Pickering Oral History Interview with Shirley K. Cohen (supplement)

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2016-02-17-000129


  • Other: 2016 February 17


This 2003 interview with William H. Pickering, in two sessions, contains his further recollections of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's early involvement with the US Army and missile development, followed by JPL's transformation into a NASA laboratory with a focus on exploration of the solar system. The interview begins with an account of his return to the small town in New Zealand where he grew up, to attend dedication of a memorial to himself and Ernest Rutherford, who attended the same primary school; he is also honored at Christchurch and Auckland. Additional recollections of JPL's collaboration with Wernher von Braun; of the first flight of Sputnik; Caltech's early work in rocketry; development and production of the Corporal missile. Awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975. Trip to Japan in 1994 to receive the Japan Prize. Further discussion of his work establishing an applied research institute in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s; his later relationship with it. Establishment of Pickering Research, a consulting business, after retiring as director of JPL in 1976; consulting for the Electrical Power Research Institute after Three-Mile Island incident in 1979; contract in 1980s to help mainland China set up computer systems for its satellite program. The interview concludes with an account of his recent involvement in the sawdust-pellet (alternative fuels) business.

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