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Willy Ley Collection

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Willy Ley Collection


Willy Ley Collection


On October 2, 1906, Willy Otto Oskar Ley was born to Julius Otto Ley and Frida May. Even in his youth, Ley loved exploration and discovery, and Ley eventually became infatuated with rockets and space travel. In 1927, Ley helped found the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel), an amateur rocket association. In the meantime, Ley wrote prolifically about rockets for both foreign and German newspapers, acquiring a reputation as an international scientist.

Ley helped contribute to the popularity of rocketry in Germany, eventually working as a technical consultant for Fritz Lang’s "Die Frau im Mond" ("Woman in the Moon"). However, thanks in no small part to the Great Depression, the rocketry fad in Germany died down, and the Nazis rose to power. Horrified by the tenets of National Socialism and the Nazis who embraced them, Ley fled his home in Germany in 1936, first settling in Great Britain before permanently moving to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1944.

During his time in the United States, Ley continued to pursue his love of rockets and science fiction, supervising two rocket mail operations in Greenwood Lake, New York in 1936, publishing scientific articles in science fiction magazines, and writing both science fiction and nonfictional books on rockets and engineering, many containing surprisingly accurate predictions about future technology. In 1940, Ley joined the newspaper "PM," where he met his future wife, whom he married in 1941. In 1944, Ley published "Rockets: the Future of Travel Beyond the Stratosphere," a text in which he expressed his belief that rockets would someday make the fantasy of space travel a reality. In 1949, he published "The Conquest of Space," a speculative science book.

Ley continued to write and participate in both science and science fiction projects for the rest of his life, never losing his passion for science. Ley passed away at age 62 on June 24, 1969, less than a month before Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

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